Marquette engineering professor receives $1.54 million NIH grant to detect tumor margins more accurately in breast conserving surgery

Sept. 20, 2022

Bing YuMILWAUKEE — Dr. Bing Yu, associate professor in the Marquette University and Medical College of Wisconsin Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering, has received a $1.54 million R01 research grant from the National Institutes of Health, through the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, to develop an imaging tool that would more accurately detect positive tumor margins during breast conserving surgeries.

Yu’s team, composed of colleagues from the Marquette Opus College of Engineering and MCW, aims to develop and implement an imaging tool for use in surgical settings. The goal is to significantly reduce the unnecessary additional surgery for women who undergo breast conserving surgery.

“Women with positive margins after breast-conserving surgery have a twofold increase risk of cancer recurrence and are recommended to undergo additional re-excision surgery to achieve negative margins,” Yu said. “The risk of these additional surgeries can lead to significant emotional, cosmetic and financial burdens for patients and their caregivers. There have been new technologies proposed in the area, but none has demonstrated the capability of analyzing an entire lumpectomy specimen with both adequate resolution and time efficiency in a clinical setting.”

Researchers will develop a microscope that utilizes deep ultraviolet scanning and deep learning to provide subcellular resolution and a rapid examination of freshly excised tumor specimens during breast conserving surgery. They propose that there are significant subcellular optical contrasts that can be identified by these methods to differentiate breast cancer cells from normal tissue. The result would be a platform technology that can be used with other imaging modalities or adapted for detection of other cancer or noncancer conditions. 

“This is a tremendous opportunity from the National Institutes of Health, and I am thrilled for Dr. Yu and his team from Marquette and the Medical College of Wisconsin,” said Dr. Kristina Ropella, Opus Dean in the Opus College of Engineering. “An imaging device of this nature will improve the patient experience by reducing additional surgeries during an already stressful time. Its impact will be measured not just in the limiting of medical risk, but also the mental and financial well-being of patients and their loved ones.”

Dr. Taly Gilat-Schmidt, professor of biomedical engineering at Marquette, is a co-investigator on the project, while Dr. Dong Hye Ye, former assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Marquette and current assistant professor of computer science at Georgia State University, is a multiple principal investigator on the project. Dr. Tina Yen, professor of surgery, and Dr. Julie Jorns, associate professor of pathology, are co-investigators from Medical College of Wisconsin, with Yen serving as MCW’s principal investigator.

The National Institutes of Health’s Research Project Grant (R01) is the original and historically oldest grant mechanism used by the NIH. The R01 provides support for health-related research and development based on the mission of the NIH. R01s can be investigator-initiated or can be solicited.

About Christopher Stolarski

Christopher Stolarski

Chris is an associate director of university communication in the Office of University Relations. Contact Chris at (414) 288-1988 or