Bahl Center Will Transform Personalization of Cancer Care

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Pushing the boundaries of high-tech cancer research and treatment, the Stony Brook University Cancer Center will open a new, one-of-a-kind translational research resource that will harness imaging technology to probe the metabolism of tumors.

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Kavita, right, and Lalit Bahl

Made possible by two back-to-back gifts from Kavita and Lalit Bahl totaling $13.75 million, the new Kavita and Lalit Bahl Center for Metabolomics and Imaging advances the family’s vision to elevate Stony Brook Medicine to the cutting-edge of personalized cancer research, diagnostic imaging breakthroughs and evolving individualized cancer care far beyond the status quo.

Metabolomics, an emerging field in cancer investigation, promises breakthroughs in individualized cancer treatment because uncovering metabolic pathways is a key to unlocking their influence on the development and proliferation of cancer cells.

Under the guidance of Yusuf Hannun, MD, and Lina Obeid, MD, the Bahl Center brings together Stony Brook researchers in the fields of metabolomics, cancer biology, medical imaging, and computational oncology.

“These gifts establish the Stony Brook University Cancer Center as home to a revolutionary new metabolomics and imaging center devoted to cancer research which will lead to translational breakthroughs,” said Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD.

“The totality of these two incredible gifts from Kavita and Lalit Bahl, both generous and visionary, will have a decades-long impact on cancer research, medical treatments and patient care,” Stanley said. “At the hub of all this is our Cancer Center — connecting a multi-disciplinary team that spans across main campus and the Medicine campus.”

Dr. Hannun, Director of the Stony Brook Cancer Center, is a renowned physician-scientist whose career has spanned more than 30 years as a cancer clinician and researcher investigating the lipid mediators of cancer cell signaling. He has published more than 500 scientific papers, edited seven books and holds seven patents.

Dr. Obeid, Vice Dean for Research at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, manages approximately $75 million in research grants and is a nationally renowned researcher in cancer biology who has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health for over 20 years.

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Yusuf Hannun, MD, and Lina Obeid, MD

Drs. Hannun and Obeid project that this one-of-kind Center will bring cancer research and discoveries for prevention, diagnosis and treatment to levels not seen before, potentially becoming a national model. By further integrating imaging and metabolomics technologies with additional expertise, the Center will break new ground in cancer research and care by:

  • Identifying diagnostic cancer biomarkers and monitoring them during treatment.
  • Using molecular analyses to create innovative radiotracers for translational imaging studies and clinical trials.
  • Discovering new cellular targets for cancer treatment.
  • Identifying complex metabolic pathways in the cancer cells of patients, enabling additional targeted and individualized therapy.
  • Using imaging technologies to enable clinicians to track a patient’s individual response to therapy.
  • Determining how epidemiological and lifestyle factors such as nutrition, obesity, and tobacco use are linked to cancer risk as a way to devise preventive measures.

The Bahls launched the imaging center bearing their name with an initial gift of $3.5 million for the purchase of a cyclotron – an instrument used to create novel tracers for PET scanning, a technique that allows molecular imaging within the human body. They followed up with a $10 million pledge enabling the Stony Brook Cancer Center to conduct revolutionary research and recruit top faculty experts in all related fields.

The Bahl gift will allow the Cancer Center to recruit four new cancer researchers who will bring additional expertise for these goals to be met. The first recruitment will be that of an oncologic imaging researcher, with recruitment in other areas such as experimental therapeutics to follow.

During Phase I, the Center will recruit an oncologic imaging researcher, a matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization (MALDI) researcher and a Magnetic Resonance (MR) spectroscopy researcher. Phase II will involve expansion through a new faculty hire in the area of Experimental Therapeutics, as well as additional research funding.

The Center will also involve collaboration with leading University faculty in areas such as the computational sciences and biomedical informatics to advance metabolomics and imaging research for cancer.

“We are very interested in supporting cancer research because my family has been so greatly affected by cancer,” Lalit Bahl said.

“My mother, grandmother, sister, and many, many relatives all lost their lives to cancer and I would like to see this not happen to other people,” Bahl said. “We believe research is necessary to improve treatment and greatly reduce the death rate of these terrible diseases.”

“Drs. Hannun and Obeid have a very long record of research in cancer, and we are thrilled to be able to support their work at Stony Brook,” Kavita Bahl said. “Our hope is that metabolomics and imaging research will result in significant progress toward finding new treatments.”

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Medical and Research Translation (MART) building, to open in 2018.

“We are especially excited by the Bahl Center as it greatly advances two strategically critical endeavors of Stony Brook Medicine – building a cutting-edge imaging facility and devising innovative approaches to understanding and treating human cancer,” said Kenneth Kaushansky, MD, Senior Vice President for the Health Sciences and Dean of the School of Medicine.

“The generous gifts from the Bahls will catalyze a whole new approach to cancer research, creating at Stony Brook Medicine a one-of-a-kind incubator for discovery. We envision the Bahl Center continuously evolving, in its new home in the soon-to-open Medical and Research Translation building.”

“This gift is transformational to the Stony Brook Cancer Center, as it will add momentum to our research endeavors in cancer and impact our patients,” Dr. Hannun said. “Metabolomics is a relatively new frontier in cancer research. It represents one of the most promising approaches in cancer therapy, as it enables scientists to target pathways not previously thought possible with cancer drugs.”

Stony Brook will incorporate its imaging expertise and innovations within research programs at the Center.

“The creation of the Bahl Center is futuristic in the sense that we will take cancer research to the next level, with the vision of being a national leader in metabolomics and imaging research for cancer,” Dr. Obeid said. “Each of the research elements within the center will drive cancer investigation so we can better understand many forms of cancer, create better diagnostics, improve therapeutics, and devise new preventive methods.”

“Drs. Hannun and Obeid are international leaders in lipid biochemistry and the role of this metabolism in cancers,” said Daniel M. Raben, PhD, a Professor in the Department of Biological Chemistry at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and an internationally recognized cancer researcher. “Their studies, individually and together, have increased our understanding of the mechanism and regulatory strategies involved in lipid metabolism, as well as their roles in cancers.”

Current Stony Brook University School of Medicine laboratories and other University scientific laboratories will conduct research for the Center. Permanent physical space for the Center and its laboratories will be located in the Medical and Research Translation (MART) building upon opening of the MART in 2018.

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