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Lakehead researcher lands $448k in funding

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A Lakehead University researcher and Thunder Bay Regional Health Research Institute scientist was awarded $448,800 from the Canadian Cancer Society to continue research into a new method of diagnosing breast cancer that may detect lesions earlier than current methods.

This Innovation to Impact grant will allow Dr. Alla Reznik to spend three years developing Positron Emission Mammography (PEM), molecular imaging equipment that may alleviate some uncertainty from breast cancer detection.

“Although X-ray mammography remains the gold standard of breast cancer screening, there is increasing awareness of a large cohort of women for whom anatomical X-ray imaging has reduced sensitivity,” said Dr. Reznik, a professor in Physics at Lakehead University and scientist at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Research Institute.

“This includes women with dense breasts and women with known intermediate and high risk factors for breast cancer,” said Dr. Reznik, who is also the Canada Research Chair in the Physics of Molecular Imaging.

The first clinical prototype of the PEM system is assembled, its imaging performance has been characterized in a laboratory setting, and it is now at the University Health Network-Princess Margaret Cancer Centre for awaiting clinical trials.

“This project will add advanced capabilities to the current PEM prototype, using data from our pilot studies as a guide," Dr. Reznik added. "The next-generation device will have a better dynamic range to allow for a wide array of clinical tasks-ranging from low-dose screening to high-dose treatment follow-up-and will be tested in multiple clinical centres in Canada and the United States to prepare data to support wide-spread deployment.”

Dr. Andrew P. Dean, Lakehead's Vice-President, Research and Innovation and Board Chair of the Thunder Bay Regional Health Research Institute, said Dr. Reznik's innovative research could someday improve the health outcomes for women around the world.

“Thank you to the Canadian Cancer Society for awarding Dr. Reznik with this Innovation to Impact grant. Grants such as these are extremely important so that fundamental research can lead to better health outcomes for women,” he said.

“Dr. Reznik is a key contributor to our health research program that is vital to advancing our academic mission and even more importantly, to improving the health of the population," said Jean Bartkowiak, President and CEO of the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre and CEO of the Health Research Institute. "Health research, like that of Dr. Reznik, provides patients with the opportunity to participate in research activity that helps design the care of the future and to access equipment at the frontier of health technology development.”

Dr. Judy Bray, Vice-President of Research at the Canadian Cancer Society, said Dr. Reznik's research could be very beneficial to women's health and wellbeing.

“With one in eight Canadian women expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, there is a need for more accurate and sensitive screening methods so that we can detect and treat the cancer earlier,” Dr. Bray said.

“That's why we are proud to fund Dr. Reznik's work in making breast mammography a more reliable screening tool for all women, including those with dense breasts and those at increased risk for breast cancer. We are grateful to our generous donors who enable us to support innovative researchers like Dr. Reznik and help create a world where no Canadian fears cancer.”

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