Eye on Medicine: SBU’s Bahl Center will transform approach to precision...

Eye on Medicine: SBU’s Bahl Center will transform approach to precision cancer medicine

The Dec. 1, 2016 Ribbon cutting for the The Kavita and Lalit Bahl Center for Metabolomics and Imaging. From left to right: Dr. Lina Obeid, Dr. Yusuf Hannun, Lalit Bahl, Kavita Bahl, President Samuel L. Stanley and Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky.

By Yusuf Hannun, M.D.

Dr. Yusuf Hannun
Dr. Yusuf Hannun

Propelled by the vision and support of Kavita and Lalit Bahl of Setauket and their two generous gifts totaling $13.75 million, this month the Stony Brook University Cancer Center unveiled The Kavita and Lalit Bahl Center for Metabolomics and Imaging.

For all of us at the Cancer Center, we believe this combined gift will have a decades-long impact on advancing cancer research, individualized medical treatments and patient care, with potentially dramatic advantages for families on Long Island and beyond.

A state-of-the-art facility, the Bahl Center capitalizes on Stony Brook University’s strengths in three major areas: research, treatment and imaging. At the research level, many university departments, including engineering, informatics, applied math, physics and chemistry, will be instrumental in synthesizing data and collaborating on studies. In the clinical care arena, the Cancer Center’s physician experts will be a vital resource in developing prevention, diagnostic and treatment protocols from the new discoveries. Our medical imaging researchers will provide innovative approaches in using the technology and insight into the imaging studies.

Our ultimate goal is to transform precision-based cancer care by enabling scientists and physicians at our Cancer Center to learn more about the characteristics and behavior of each patient’s specific cancer. The center concentrates on the field of metabolomics, one of the most promising approaches to individualized cancer treatment. Metabolomics explores how cancer cells manufacture and use energy, allowing the disease to start, grow and spread, as well as how different types of cancer respond to different treatments. At its core, the Bahl Center is a translational research program that is uniquely positioned to drive innovative cancer research to the next level of discovery:

Cutting-edge Technology. The gift allows us to purchase a cyclotron, which is a particle accelerator that creates tracer molecules. The tracer molecules bind to cancer cells and can be viewed during a positron emission tomography (PET) scan.

Advanced Imaging. We will have two new PET scanners in close proximity to the cyclotron. By using the tracer molecules, our researchers will be able to develop novel applications of PET scans to image multiple aspects of cancers. This will provide new information about how cancer develops, how it can be detected with more precision and how therapy can be tailored and monitored.

Robust Research Program. We are fortunate to have widely respected researchers in the fields of lipids and metabolomics, cancer biology, medical imaging and computational oncology already here at Stony Brook. With this gift, we will be able to recruit key experts in areas that complement our strengths to drive the center to new levels of excellence.

The knowledge we gain will help revolutionize precision-based cancer diagnosis and care. It will lead to earlier detection, new treatment targets and improved monitoring of treatment response, as well as a better understanding of how to prevent cancer from developing in the first place.

For Long Island residents, the Bahl Center’s location at Stony Brook University Cancer Center means that patients will have the benefit of being treated by professionals who are on the forefront of transformative cancer discoveries.

The Kavita and Lalit Bahl Center for Metabolomics and Imaging research program was officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Dec. 1. We’re currently working in Stony Brook University School of Medicine laboratories but will relocate to dedicated facilities in our new Medical and Research Translation (MART) building when it opens in 2018. To learn more, please visit www.cancer.stonybrookmedicine.edu.

Dr. Yusuf Hannun is the director of the Stony Brook University Cancer Center, vice dean for cancer medicine and Joel Strum Kenny Professor in Cancer Research.