September 21, 2018
The United States Patent and Trademark Office has issued a patent to Srinidi Mohan, Ph.D., associate professor in the College of Pharmacy, for his methods and diagnostics for cancer detection and treatment monitoring.
Mohan received the patent for his research, which uses a marker in the blood to detect the presence of highly aggressive tumors and to help track cancer growth.
Discovered while studying nutritional supplements, Mohan found that the marker Nw-hydroxy-L-Arginine (NOHA) was both a sensitive and reliable indicator for estrogen receptor-negative (ER–) tumors, the most aggressive types of breast cancer.
“As committed as we are to excellence in teaching in both the classroom and practice site, we are equally dedicated to the generation of new knowledge from the work of our faculty and students,” commented Robert McCarthy, dean of the College of Pharmacy. “Srinidi Mohan is an exceptional teacher and scholar, and we are proud of this seminal accomplishment.”
According to the American Breast Cancer Foundation, estrogen-negative breast cancer is diagnosed in approximately 60,000 individuals each year in the United States, with young women and African Americans most at risk. As an aggressive tumor, estrogen-negative breast cancer provides no noticeable symptoms prior to tumor cyst development and has no readily available effective targeted therapy. Both early and advanced stage estrogen-negative breast tumors are treated predominantly by chemotherapy.
Currently, no reliable blood-based marker exists for estrogen-negative breast tumor prognosis and/or disease monitoring.
“The cancer can develop between screenings,” Mohan explained. “This method can help monitor disease progression, measure treatment outcomes and help alleviate anxiety in patients by providing a cost-effective and less-invasive alternative to do monthly check-ups.”
Apart from poor prognosis and modest treatment options, patients with such aggressive breast cancer face twice the risk of mortality as compared to other tumor subtypes.
Karen Houseknecht, Ph.D., associate provost for Research and Scholarship, notes that research conducted at the University of New England is focused on solving real world problems facing patients and our communities.
“Identification of a novel biomarker that can be used for early detection of some of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer may prove to be a huge benefit in the early diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer,” she said. “We are proud to support this important, patient-centered work.”
As principal investigator, Mohan conducted the research with the support of funding from the UNE Office of Research and Scholarship and the Maine Technology Institute (MTI) which provided funding in the form of tech start and seed grants. Mohan also received a $375,000 funding award from the Maine Cancer Foundation to advance the development of his early detection and disease monitoring method.
“We are proud to play a role in the development of the screening tool and eager to see it disseminated widely so that women and their providers can detect this potentially lethal form of breast cancer early enough to stop it in its tracks,” said Tara Hill, executive director of Maine Cancer Foundation.
Further development of this novel technology is being conducted in collaboration with physicians and researchers at the Maine Medical Center Research Institute.
Read about it in the Portland Press Herald, Bangor Daily News, U.S. News and World Report, WGAN, Maine Public, Miami Herald, Washington Times, Stamford Advocate, New England Cable News, Connecticut Post and Associated Press