Health Sciences Campus

Grant aids in cancer research

By Doug Boyd
ECU News Services

Dr. Xin-Hua Hu
GREENVILLE, N.C.  (Jan. 24, 2012)  —  An East Carolina University researcher is developing a screening test for prostate cancer with help from a $50,000 grant from Triad Golfers Against Cancer.

Dr. Xin-Hua Hu, a professor of physics, is developing a screening test that uses light to gauge the type and grade of cancer cells in a blood sample.

Specifically, Hu's test uses circulating tumor cells detected by diffraction imaging flow cytometer technology, a way to count and examine microscopic particles, such as cells and chromosomes, by suspending them in a stream of fluid and passing them by an electronic detection apparatus. The light scatters from the cells will indicate the type and structural features of cells to detect the severity of cancer present.

Hu is developing the test with prostate cancer cells due to the large number of prostate cancer patients ECU serves. However, he believes the test is adaptable to other cancers. ECU has filed for a patent on this procedure, and Hu has received a $25,000 grant from the N.C. Biotechnology Center via the ECU Office of Technology Transfer to improve the test.

In the 29-county service area of ECU, men died of prostate cancer at a rate of 34.3 per 100,000 people between 2004 and 2008, compared to 26.7 deaths per 100,000 for the rest of the state for the same period, according to ECU figures. In eastern North Carolina, 225.3 new cases of prostate cancer per 100,000 people were diagnosed between 2004 and 2008, versus a rate of 209.9 new cases for the rest of the state in the same period.

Nationwide, prostate cancer is the most-diagnosed cancer in men and the second-leading cause of cancer death in men, according to the American Cancer Society. In 2011, nearly 241,000 new cases were diagnosed, and an estimated 33,720 men died from the disease. In North Carolina, nearly 7,600 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer last year, and nearly 1,000 died of the disease, according to the ACS.

Triad Golfers Against Cancer awarded $210,000 in grants in December to researchers at the four medical schools in North Carolina. Golfers Against Cancer, founded in 1997, is a national charitable organization.

Contact: Doug Boyd | 252-744-2482