By OKECHUKWU PEACE
Dr. Samuel Achilefu, professor and Ghief of the optical radiology lab at Washington University School of Medicine, was honored with the 2014 St. Louis Award for his contributions to cancer treatment research.
Born to Nigerian parents during the Biafran War, he helped developed high-tech glasses that help surgeons visualize cancer cells during surgery. He is the 87th recipient of the award, established in 1931 by leading philanthropist David Wohl.
Here are some facts about the scholar…
*Samuel Achilefu, PhD was age five years old when the Biafran civil war forced his family to move to a safer area in Nigeria and start life anew.
*His first sojourn abroad was on a French government scholarship, and postdoctoral training in oxygen transport mechanisms culminating in his PhD in molecular physical and materials chemistry at the University of Nancy, France.
*Achilefu came to St. Louis in 1993 to join the nascent Discovery Research Department at Mallinckrodt Medical Inc. In 2001, he joined Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology at Washington University.
*He lives with his wife and two teenage children.
* On Jan. 14, the scientist received the St. Louis Award at the Eric P. Newman Education Center. The honor, awarded almost every year since 1932, recognizes area residents whose achievements reflect positively on the community.
*Achilefu was recognized for leading a team that developed high-tech goggles that help surgeons “see” cancer.
*David Kemper, Vice chair of the Washington University Board of Trustees who is a member of the award committee that chose Achilefu, said that the researcher was honored “for his passion and commitment to medical research, putting St. Louis in the spotlight for advancement in optical engineering technology and pushing the boundaries of cancer treatment.”
*His team members include; Viktor Gruev, PhD, associate professor of engineering at WUSTL, and Ron Liang, PhD, of the University of Arizona and WUSTL graduate students; Suman Mondal, Shengkui Gao and Yang Liu and postdoctoral fellow Nan Zhu.
* The goggles and a related dye which Achilefu and his team developed is undergoing review by the Food and Drug Administration.
*Achilefu intends to keep Washington University as the primary center for clinical trials to evaluate the technology in patients.
About Achilefu’s Cancer Googles
Cancer cells are notoriously difficult to see, even under high-powered magnification. Achilefu’s eyewear is designed to make it easier for surgeons to distinguish malignant cells from healthy cells, helping to ensure that no stray tumor cells are left behind during surgery to remove a cancerous tumor.
The glasses could reduce the need for additional surgical procedures and the subsequent stress on patients, as well as time and expense.
The goggles system incorporates custom video technology, a head-mounted display and a targeted molecular agent that attaches to cancer cells, making them glow when viewed with the glasses.