Faculty members awarded inaugural grants to improve diagnosis, treatment of cancer

January 29, 2019

Dr. Melissa Troester

Dr. Melissa Troester

Dr. Yuchao Jiang

Dr. Yuchao Jiang

Melissa Troester, PhD, professor of epidemiology, and Yuchao Jiang, PhD, assistant professor of biostatistics, both at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, have received research funding through the inaugural round of Computational Medicine Pilot Grant Awards.

The funding is provided by the UNC Computational Medicine Program and the UNC School of Medicine Office of Research.

Troester, who also is professor of pathology and laboratory medicine in the UNC School of Medicine and member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, is co-principal investigator for the project, “Breast Cancer Molecular Subtype Prediction from Stationary Digital Breast Tomosynthesis Imaging.”

She will work with seven other co-principals from UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences and School of Medicine to compare the capability of Stationary Digital Breast Tomosynthesis (s-DBT), Digital Breast Tomosynthesis (DBT) and mammography to predict molecular subtypes of breast cancer.

The research team aims to improve accuracy while reducing costs for evaluating cancer subtypes and to serve as a stepping stone for both machine learning algorithm development and the development of next-generation stationary digital breast tomosynthesis devices.

Troester’s team includes Drs. Yueh Lee (radiology, biomedical engineering and physics); Marc Niethammer (computer science, Biomedical Research Imaging Center), Cherie Kuzmiak (radiology), Stephanie Downs-Canner and Kristalyn Gallagher (surgical oncology), Benjamin Calhoun (pathology and laboratory medicine) and Otto Zhou (physics and astronomy).

Jiang, who also has an appointment in the UNC School of Medicine’s Department of Genetics and is a member of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, will be co-principal investigator for the project, “Single-Cell Omics Analyses for Assessing Genomic, Transcriptomic and Epigenomic Heterogeneity in Cancer.”

He and his co-principal Qing Zhang, PhD, assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine in the UNC School of Medicine, will develop new statistical methods and computational algorithms to assess heterogeneity in tumors. Their goal is to facilitate understanding of tumor progression and metastasis, aid biomarker discovery for diagnosis and tailor personalized treatment.

The Computational Medicine Pilot Grant Awards program sought collaborative proposals from research areas in cognitive computing/machine learning; image analysis/computer vision; computational and mathematical modeling; bioinformatics and computational genomics; health informatics and network analysis.

The winning teams were selected from a large pool of applicants whose proposals embodied the program’s goals, seeking to integrate modern computational approaches with cutting edge experimental techniques to advance the goal of predictive health care.

The third team, led by faculty members in mathematics and biomedical engineering, will be engaged in the project, “Computational-enabled Design of Engineered Vascular Tissues for Ischemic Disease.” Team members will apply methods of computational mechanics and fluid dynamics to determine pressures and shear stresses in image-based models of engineered vascular networks, collecting preliminary data that will be used to establish computational models.


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Contact the Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at sphcomm@listserv.unc.edu.

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