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Improving prostate cancer detection

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  • Full or part time
    Dr C.A. Aguergaray
    Prof C Simpson
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round

About This PhD Project

Project Description

This 3-year PhD project is part of a grant funded by the New Zealand MBIE to develop a diagnostic tool capable of real-time, in-vivo, prostate cancer diagnosis. For this we use a technique with high molecular specificity known as Raman spectroscopy. This light-based measurement systems has the potential to non-invasively diagnose cancer with high accuracy and sensitivity and remove the need for painful biopsies. This project will allow you to develop your technical creativity and learn about a new data analysis technique that is receiving ever increasing attention around the world for its biomedical capabilities!

Prostate cancer is the second most common male cancer worldwide, its incidence continues to grow. New Zealand has the world’s highest rate with over 3,000 men diagnosed each year. Māori and Pacific Islanders are more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer and to be diagnosed at a later stage resulting in 10% higher mortality rate overall. Earlier detection with faster, less invasive procedures can help reverse this trend!
Current prostate cancer diagnostic accuracy ranges 20-80% and involves MRI, alongside multiple rounds of invasive biopsies. Diagnosed patients often undergo partial/radical prostatectomy, but positive surgical margins (cancer cells spreading into non-resected tissue) can occur in up to 1 in 5 cases. Such positive margins are strongly correlated to disease recurrence which is a major issue, especially considering that margin assessment is currently only performed by pathologists and takes hours to days post-surgery…
Our developed device will seamlessly incorporate Raman spectroscopy into surgical procedures. Allowing for real time, rapid and accurate in vivo measurements applied in prostate cancer diagnosis, as well as, identification of surgical borders during prostatectomies which ensures full removal of the cancer and maximum healthy tissue retention.

The PhD candidate will be part of a diverse and supportive research group focusing on several key aspects of the development of this technology:
- Performing lab measurements and helping to design the preliminary work protocols for our probes by using phantom and ex vivo tissue.
- Determine the sensitivity of our device in biological media
- Collecting data on animal and human tissue to build a spectral database (ex vivo and in vivo)
- Contribute to data analysis and identification of relevant biomarkers and Raman peaks.
- Work together with our research and clinical team to improve the probe design for seamless integration of our technology in surgical settings.

Research environment
The project is part of the wider portfolio of photonics research that is performed in the Photon Factory at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. The Photon Factory is a multi-user, multi-disciplinary laser facility with 30+ physics, engineering, chemistry and biology students and staff. Research spans the fundamental, applied and entrepreneurial.
This fully funded PhD fellowship will be co-supervised by Dr Claude Aguergaray, deputy director of the Photon Factory and Professor Cather Simpson, founder of the Photon Factory. The Photon Factory embraces diversity and is committed to creating an inclusive research environment in which all students and staff can succeed.
Interested candidates should contact Dr Claude Aguergaray at [Email Address Removed].

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