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Professor Daescu Wins Grant for Research on Children with Bone Cancer

Dr. Ovidiu Daescu, Professor in the Department of Computer Science, is part of a team that was recently awarded a major grant from the Texas Cancer Prevention Research Institute (CPRIT). He and his collaborators from the University of Texas Southwestern were awarded a grant of $1,290,442 to fund a research project titled: Using Imaging and Computational Tools to Improve Risk Stratification in Children with Bone Cancer. This project is a four-year award with the UT Dallas portion comprising approximately one-third of the total award.  The project will involve two PhD students from UT Dallas in addition to Dr. Daescu, along with collaborators Drs. Stephen Skapek and Patrick Leavey and their team from UT Southwestern Medical Center.

The overall objective of this project is to focus on imaging of tumors to detect necrosis in the early stages so that treatment of patients can be optimized and personalized.  In particular, the researchers will focus on osteosarcoma, which is the most common form of bone cancer in children and young adolescents. While osteosarcoma frequently starts in a particular bone, it can potentially move to other sites in the body, such as the lungs and other bones. This movement, known as metastasis, often makes the disease more difficult to treat.

“Being involved in a project like this is very meaningful,” says Dr. Daescu. “This project will have a direct impact on people’s life and their outcomes. This is another example of how computer science has an impact on modern medicine and its tools.” Dr. Daescu and his team will develop software tools to enable the identification of features of tumor necrosis by the use of image pattern recognition on histology whole slide images of the widest coronal plane of a resected osteosarcoma. A second complementary approach will be to develop algorithms to assist in correlating images with MRIs done on actual sections of bone. This approach involves identification of necrosis that will be based on virtual dissection of bones. Together, this research is aimed at developing a predictive analytical approach that ultimately can be used to tailor therapies to individuals more precisely.

The Texas Cancer Prevention Research Institute (CPRIT) was established in 2007 by a constitutional amendment to fund groundbreaking cancer research and prevention programs and services in Texas by issuing $3 billion in bonds to fund the institute.  CPRIT’s goal is to expedite innovation in cancer research and product development, and to enhance access to evidence-based prevention programs throughout the state.  All CPRIT-funded research is conducted in state by Texas-based scientists and reflect CPRIT’s mission to attract and expand the state’s research capabilities.

The UT Dallas Computer Science department maintains a very active research program, with more than $7.7 million in research expenditures in 2014 and approximately $24 million in new funding received during the last 3 years. This funding comes from federal agencies and from local high-tech companies, many of which work very closely with our faculty and students. Our distinguished faculty and their PhD students publish their research in top journals and present their results at leading conferences. Our research has also been in national and international spotlight in recent past. Our faculty are also active as program and conference chairs and as journal editors and editorial board members.

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