The National Science Foundation has awarded a grant of $1.1 million to a team of researchers at UT Austin and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC) in Houston to develop computer-simulation-based methods that could significantly enhance the effectiveness of laser therapy for cancer, particularly prostate cancer. The UT-Austin work will be conducted by an interdisciplinary team within ICES, the Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences, led by Dr. J. Tinsley Oden, Principal Investigator of the project and Director of ICES.  Dr. Kenneth Diller, Chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, and Dr. Chandrajit Bajaj of ICES and the Department of Computer Sciences are Co-PI's.  The M. D. Anderson team will be led by Dr. John Hazle.  The project will be supported under NSF's Dynamic-Data-Driven-Application Systems Program created to integrate computer simulation technologies with measurement devices to greatly enhance the fidelity of computer models of various physical systems.  In the ICES-MDACC effort, the use of lasers to supply a lethal dose of heat to cancerous tissue while minimizing damage to healthy tissue will be studied.  Computer models of the laser source, the actual subject-specific tumor and surrounding tissue, and the evolution of heat in the tumor are to be developed using state-of-the-art computational methods developed at ICES.  The basic strategy is to predict the outcome of the laser therapy in real-time and to adjust the experimental parameters, the laser power, location, and frequencies, so that the tumor is eradicated at the conclusion of the treatment while damage to healthy tissue is eliminated or minimized.  The research will make use of a new MRTI (Magnetic-Resonance-Temperature Imaging) device at MDACC that can produce images of the evolving temperature distribution in prostate tumors, and transmit these images to the ACES Visualization Laboratory at UT Austin, where computer models of the tumor and temperature fields can be generated and analyzed.  According to Oden, "This provides an adaptive control system for monitoring cancer treatment that could dramatically improve the success rate of laser therapy while minimizing damage of healthy tissue." 

Other UT-Austin researchers on this project include Drs. Leszek Demkowicz, J.C. Browne, Jon Bass, Serge Prudhomme, Yusheng Feng, and Nichole Rylander and several graduate students.