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Developing optical spectroscopy to detect human papillomavirus-associated cancer lesions in the oropharynx

Primary Investigators:
Giju Thomas
Brief Description of Project:
A rapid increase in the incidence of oropharyngeal cancer (OPC), a type of head and neck cancer, has been reported in many parts of the developed world, predominantly driven by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.  The focal point of this epidemic is the US, where the incidence of HPV-driven OPC has risen by 225% over the past several decades. To date, screening for HPV-associated OPC has proven challenging with lack of highly sensitive imaging techniques being a major barrier to visualize/detect small tumors within the oropharynx. Optical spectroscopy is a non-invasive technique that can detect changes in tissue due to its distinct optical properties (e.g., tissue autofluorescence, inelastic scattering) and therefore, could be a viable approach for real-time sensitive detection of HPV-associated OPC lesions. This project will involve developing and testing a portable optical spectroscopy system to detect and identify HPV-associated OPC lesions in real-time. Data classification algorithms will be studied and applied to evaluate the diagnostic accuracy of the developed system with tissue histopathology serving as the gold standard.

Desired Qualifications:
Proficiency with MatLab or LabVIEW will be required. Our research team will provide additional training as required for this project. Interest in (i) optical spectroscopy/imaging, (ii) clinical/pre-clinical research and (iii) disease/cancer diagnostics is desired.
Nature of Supervision:
Student will be directly supervised by the Primary Investigator. Graduate students of the research team will also assist the student in optimizing experimental designs and trouble-shooting during data analysis.
A Brief Research Plan (period is for 10 weeks):
Week 0-1: Hands on training with a benchtop spectroscopy system.
Week 1-2: Hands on training with the portable clinical spectroscopy system. 
Week 3-5: Experimental data acquisition with oropharyngeal specimens using the benchtop spectroscopy system.
Week 4-8: Experimental data acquisition from patients in operation rooms using the portable clinical spectroscopy system.
Week 8-9: Quantitative data analysis.
Week 9-10: Data compilation, inference and discussion of obtained results, submit abstract for relevant conference. 

Number of Open Slots: 1
Contact Information:
Name: Giju Thomas
Department: Biomedical Engineering