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Early Cancer Detection Technologies Institute

Vadim Backman, PhD

"Early cancer screening is currently the only and the most effective way to dramatically reduce cancer mortality. The cutting-edge technologies that are being developed at the institute will make the screening of the entire population possible. By bridging revolutionary advances in nanotechnology, imaging, and bioengineering developed at Northwestern together with cancer biology and clinical medicine, the institute is poised to make cancer a disease of the 20th century."

Vadim Backman, PhD, Walter Dill Scott Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering, McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and Program Leader for Cancer and Physical Sciences, Lurie Cancer Center

Most cancers are curable if detected early. In fact, early detection is the only option currently to reduce deaths from cancer substantially. Cervical cancer is a striking example of how population screening (the Pap smear test in this case) was able to quickly reduce deaths from this disease by 90 percent. This screening has relegated cervical cancer from the most prevalent cancer in women to #13. These success stories are still rare, unfortunately. For many types of cancer — including lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, and ovarian cancer — there is simply no screening option available, which translates into extremely high mortality rates. For others, available diagnostic tests cannot be applied for the screening of the entire eligible population due to the low diagnostic accuracy of tests, the high cost, invasiveness, or associated health risks. This leads to only a small portion of our population being screened. Colon cancer detection via colonoscopy, prostate cancer screening using the PSA test, and mammography screening to detect breast cancer, as examples, reach only a minority of at-risk patients.

Every year, more than 570,000 Americans die of cancer. Screening has the potential to reduce this number by as much as 90 percent. The two most prevalent malignancies, lung and colon cancers, are responsible for more than 40 percent of those deaths. If accurate early detection technologies are implemented for just these two cancers alone, the lives of as many as 190,000 people could potentially be saved in our nation. Emerging advanced technologies currently being developed at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University may make this a reality.

A Uniquely Northwestern Approach

At Northwestern, we are uniquely equipped for innovation in cancer detection technology. The Early Cancer Detection Technologies Institute at the Lurie Cancer Center will create new research collaborations across Northwestern University. The combination of the world-class Feinberg School of Medicine and McCormick School of Engineering, together with the Lurie Cancer Center's comprehensive designation by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), gives us breadth and depth in research and the ability to test in pre-clinical and clinical settings. We have the opportunity to bring together engineers (biomedical and electrical), clinicians (gastroenterologists, pathologists, radiologists, and epidemiologists), chemists, and cancer biologists while leveraging Northwestern's unique strengths in engineering and nanotechnology.

The mission of the proposed Early Cancer Detection Technologies Institute is to:

Specifically, the institute will develop new early detection technologies that are:

An important aspect of the institute will be its ability to connect basic science research, translational research, and commercialization activities. This comprehensive approach, working with existing Northwestern resources such as the Innovation and New Ventures Office (INVO), will ensure that discoveries in the laboratory are shepherded through the regulatory process and are viable in the clinical setting, ensuring maximum impact.

For donations and mail correspondence contact:

Terri Dillon

Terri Dillon

Assistant Dean for Development, Northwestern University
420 East Superior Street
Arthur J. Rubloff Building, 9th Floor
Chicago, IL 60611
Phone: 312.503.4837
Fax: 312.503.6743

More Institutes: Cancer Biology | Developmental Therapeutics | Early Cancer Detection Technologies