Ana Alba-Rubio received NSF grant to aid in the detection of cancer cells

June 6, 2022

Ana Alba-Rubio received an NSF grant of $250,000 to fund research to continue the development of a sensor that will aid in the detection of cancer.

Hydroxyl free radicals are found in the human body, but an excess of them can damage the cells resulting in serious health issues, including cancer, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s diseases. Therefore, these species have attracted great interest in health care and medical areas as biomarkers that might indicate the initiation and progress of these diseases.

While being a faculty at the University of Toledo, Dr. Alba-Rubio, together with Dr. Dong-Shik Kim and Dr. Surachet Duanghathaipornsuk, developed a sensor for the in situ real-time detection of hydroxyl free radicals which was considered challenging due to the extreme reactivity and short lifetime of these species. Inspired by their findings, the team participated in the NSF I-Corps program which aims to help researchers gain valuable insight into entrepreneurship.

After interviewing more than a hundred experts in the field, the team concluded that further development of the sensor could help surgical oncologists to easily determine the margins when removing cancerous tissue from a patient. In this regard, the team has just received a two-year Partnerships for Innovation-Technology Translation (PFI-TT) grant ($250,000) from the National Science Foundation to study the viability of the sensor in partnership with pathologists and surgical oncologists. The rapid on-site detection of cancer cells in the operating room is expected to help both patients and hospitals reduce pain and economic burden.