Tumor Assessment Device Wins Seed Funding from The Carolinas Photonics Consortium

The Carolinas Photonics Consortium (CPC) has selected biomedical engineering postdoctoral researcher Quincy Brown of Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering to receive $10,000 in seed funding for the development of a device aimed at dramatically decreasing the number of repeat surgeries for women with breast cancer.

"In the U.S., more than 145,000 women with breast cancer have to undergo two or more invasive surgeries to completely remove their cancer," Brown said. "Those second surgeries impose a tremendous emotional, physical, and financial burden to the patient.”

The device, known as Illuminus, was developed by Brown and his colleagues in the laboratory of associate BME professor Nimmi Ramanujam. It uses optical spectroscopy to rapidly and non-destructively create a molecular and pathological profile of the tissue margin surrounding a removed tumor mass. That profile can differentiate a “clean” or “healthy” tumor margin from one that still contains cancerous tissues -- thereby allowing the surgeon to remove additional tissue as needed while the patient is still on the operating table.

Illuminus, the debut product of the spinoff company Endls Optics founded by Duke's Ramanujam, has already been clinically tested on 50 patients to date in collaboration with surgeon Lee Wilke and pathologist Joseph Geradts of Duke University Medical Center, with 100 more patients planned for recruitment in the study, Brown said.

The CPC selected five proposals for seed funding aimed at commercializing light-based technologies. Each winning proposal will also receive business and market development support from the Technology, Entrepreneurship and Commercialization initiative at North Carolina State University’s College of Management.

“The five winning programs are excellent examples of photonics-based technologies which will address immediate needs in widely varying markets,” said Jeff Conley, interim director of CPC.

The CPC includes North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Western Carolina University, Clemson University and Duke University. Learn more at www.carolinasphotonics.com.