Award Provides $500,000 Over Two Years
(Baton Rouge, La.) Wayne Newhauser, LSU professor of physics & astronomy and Charles M. Smith Chair of Medical Physics; and Chief of Physics, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, has been awarded a research grant to investigate ways to improve the outcomes of childhood cancer survivors. The project, which will be conducted in collaboration with colleagues from Northern Illinois University, was funded by the Department of Defense. The award provides $500,000 over two years.
“We have developed a method for predicting the risk of long-term side effects in children treated with radiation,” said Newhauser. “Our approach is unique in that we can provide an estimate that is tailored to each individual child. For example, children who develop certain types of pediatric cancers are known to be more sensitive to radiation and, thus, are more likely to suffer from long-term side effects. Our method can take these factors into account.”
Newhauser’s research group focuses on personalizing and integrating cancer treatment and survivorship care after the treatment of their cancer has ended. A multi-disciplinary team will perform in silico, or computer simulation, clinical trials to develop an evidence base to guide clinical and policy decision-making. The team includes researchers at Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, LSU, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC) and other research institutions.
Newhauser and coworkers seek novel approaches to reduce the risk of avoidable second cancers, cardiac toxicity, and fertility complications that are caused by radiation therapy. In silico clinical trials, a novel approach pioneered by Newhauser at MDACC, are advantageous because they can be conducted in two or three years. In contrast, traditional randomized clinical trials to evaluate second cancers typically would require two to three decades.
“Ideally we would rely on randomized clinical trials to generate our base of evidence. However, most second cancers take more than a decade to appear,” said Maurice King, medical director, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center. “In that time, medical practice evolves and the results, at least for the purpose of clinical decision making, would become obsolete.”
Since 2002, Newhauser and colleagues have obtained numerous grants to develop the modeling infrastructure to conduct insilico trials.
“Interestingly, LSU is one of the few institutions worldwide with the environment and infrastructure needed to conduct this kind of research,” said Newhauser. “The institution’s shared resources have given us a significant competitive edge in obtaining extramural funding and they have dramatically accelerated the pace of progress.”
“The research conducted by Dr. Newhauser’s group requires significant computing resources. LSU’s investment in shared high-performance computing resources has significantly enhanced the group’s level of research productivity and, in turn ability to secure extramural research funding,” said Joel Tohline, Floating Point Systems Chair in Computational Methods and director of LSU’s Center for Computation and Technology.
“The goal of our laboratory is to find and quantify ways to reduce any avoidable treatment-related toxicity in survivors of childhood cancer,” said Newhauser. “The results of our research have already begun to provide clinically valuable insights, particularly for children with medulloblastoma. We anticipate that our in silico studies will play an increasingly important role in clinical and policy decision-making.”
Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center is a regional cancer care organization that has been fighting cancer for more than 40 years. With five centers in Baton Rouge, Covington, Hammond, Houma and Gonzales, its service area encompasses 18 parishes across southeast Louisiana. Through a series of innovative partnerships, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center is succeeding in its mission “to improve survivorship and lessen the burden of cancer through expert treatment, compassionate care, early detection, research and education.”
LSU is Louisiana’s Flagship University. Designated as a land, sea and space grant institution, it is noted for its extensive research facilities, operating some 800 sponsored research projects funded by agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, among others.