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Chemist Receives CPRIT Award for Tool to Recognize Thyroid Cancer

Chemist Receives CPRIT Award for Tool to Recognize Thyroid Cancer
Image credited to L'Oréal USA For Women In Science video

The Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) awarded an Early Translational Research grant to chemist Livia Eberlin, for the development of a new tool to accurately recognize thyroid cancer. The new tool, utilizing a technology called ambient ionization mass spectrometry, looks for patterns in the abundance of metabolites, or end products of biological processes, to rapidly determine whether cancer is present in a sample.

"We are developing a new approach to analyze and diagnose a biopsy tissue sample in a minute—and before surgery—by recognizing patterns of molecules," says Eberlin, assistant professor of chemistry at The University of Texas at Austin. This work is in collaboration with James Suliburk and Wendong Yu from the Baylor College of Medicine.

The hope is to revolutionize thyroid cancer diagnosis. Currently, a fine needle aspiration is the first step in determining whether a patient has thyroid cancer, but between 10 and 30 percent of these biopsies are deemed inconclusive or indeterminate. This means that patients undergo surgery to complete diagnosis, despite the fact that the majority of these surgeries ultimately determine that the tumor was benign.

The limitations of current methods require patients to undergo needless surgery and take hormone replacement therapy for the rest of their lives. Eberlin's new work, funded with a grant of $983,586 from CPRIT, has the potential to vastly improve patients' lives by diagnosing thyroid cancer instantly and before surgery.

"It is so upsetting that some patients have to do hormone replacement therapy for the rest of their lives because there is no technology that can tell preoperatively whether a tumor is malignant or not," says Eberlin, who recently received a 2017 Marion Milligan Mason Award for Women in the Chemical Sciences. "We hope to address this critical clinical need with the molecular technologies that we are developing."

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Thursday, 02 February 2023

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