Lucas Cahill, a third-year Medical Engineering and Medical Physics (MEMP) Ph.D. student in the Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology (HST), has been selected as a runner-up for the 2018 Broshy Graduate Fellowship in Medical Engineering and Science. Lucas received $10,000 to support his project, Low cost, rapid evaluation of surgical margins in prostatectomy to reduce incontinence and impotence.

Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in American men. Even though prostatectomies can effectively remove tumors, incontinence and impotence are common side effects. Under the supervision of MIT Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Professor James Fujimoto, Lucas has developed high-speed nonlinear microscopy (NLM) technology and tissue processing methods that enable intraoperative histologic evaluation of un-sectioned surgical tissue in minutes. NLM has several advantages over current intraoperative tissue evaluation techniques (such as frozen section analysis) including: 1) It is nondestructive, enabling subsequent gold-standard tissue processing techniques to be performed. 2) Large areas of tissue can be evaluated rapidly and in parallel, enabling improved sampling. 3) It is low cost, easy to use, and time and labor efficient. NLM has the potential to improve ease and speed of intraoperative evaluation of prostate tissue, which will help surgeons perform nerve-sparing procedures that minimize post-operative incontinence and impotence, while also reducing the risk of compromised surgical and oncological outcomes from positive surgical margins.

Lucas developed this new research direction in the area of prostate cancer after working with some of Dr. Fujimoto’s collaborators at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) on improving breast cancer surgery. Lucas independently assembled the collaborative team necessary for this project and developed the study design. Dr. Fujimoto praises Lucas as a careful and systematic researcher who demonstrates an exceptional degree of independence and innovation, stating “Lucas’s level of research skill, ability to independently develop new research concepts and to work effectively with clinical collaborators is outstanding.”

Lucas is very excited and grateful for the opportunity that the Broshy Fellowship award provides. He plans to use this award to support initial steps in the path to clinical integration and validation, which includes studies carried out in collaboration with researchers in the Department of Pathology and Division of Urology at BIDMC.

The Broshy Fellowship program, named for Eran Broshy, MIT alumnus and member of the MIT Corporation and IMES Visiting Committee, aims to support the research and education of an exceptional graduate student whose work focuses on a novel, interdisciplinary project that has a good likelihood of being translated into an innovative commercial product and/or service that positively impacts healthcare outcomes and cost.

This year’s runner-up receives a one-year $10,000 award to support tuition, stipend, and research costs. Requests for nominations for the 2019/2020 award year will be announced in early spring 2019.