Virtual Pancreatography Research Receives Funding from the Marcus Foundation


Working with Stony Brook University’s Cancer Center and Johns Hopkins University Hospital (JH), Principal Investigator Arie Kaufman, PhD, Chairman of Computer Science at Stony Brook University (SBU), received a grant from The Marcus Foundation to explore the use of virtual reality in pancreatic cancer research.

Sharing in this almost $1M award are Ralph Hruban, MD (JH PI), Pathology at JH, Joel Saltz MD, PhD (co-PI), Biomedical Informatics at SBU (Co-PI), and Elliot Fishman, MD (Co-PI), Radiology, JH.

Pancreatic adenocarcinoma is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United State and it estimated that this year 46,420 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and 39,590 will die from the disease. While much remains a mystery surrounding pancreatic cancer, researchers do know that it is extremely aggressive, with only 5% of patients alive 5 years after diagnosis.

A significant fraction of pancreatic cancers are thought to originate from curable cystic precancerous lesions. Approximately 10% of the US population has a CT scan each year and a significant number of incidental pancreatic cysts are detected in these individuals. Believing that a key to survival is early diagnosis, this unique collaboration between SBU and JH proposes a novel approach for identifying and classifying pancreatic cysts.

This research presents a unique opportunity to save lives that would otherwise be lost to pancreatic cancer. The challenge is that some pancreatic cysts are harmless and present a risk for over-treatment, while others are precancerous. Reliable, pre-operative classification of these cysts is not possible at present.

Kaufman and his team will identify well-characterized patients with previously surgically removed pancreatic cysts, and, using advanced computer science approaches, they will create a virtual pancreatography for “3D visualization and navigation through and around the pancreas, and especially the ducts, to identify and characterize the cysts and to correlate cyst features with cyst diagnoses.” This non-invasive tool will help avoid unnecessary surgery in patients with benign cysts that do not have the potential to progress, and will help save lives by identifying cysts that are at risk of progressing to the incurable invasive pancreatic cancer.

The Marcus Foundation’s support of this pioneering research will give newfound hope to pancreatic cancer patients around the world.

SBU’s Chair of Computer Science since 1999, Professor Arie Kaufman has been conducting computer science research for over 40 years. To date, he has over 40 patents, and has been a principal or co-principal investigator on more than 100 research grants. Kaufman is internationally recognized for his revolutionary research and breakthroughs, including the Reality Deck and the 3D Virtual Colonoscopy, which is an FDA approved and licensed technique for screening colon cancer. Kaufman, who is also the Chief Scientist at the Center of Excellence in Wireless and Information Technology (CEWIT) and a Distinguished Professor of Radiology at Stony Brook University, joined the SBU faculty in 1985.