Dr. Karol Lang, the Jane and Roland Blumberg Professor of Physics at The University of Texas at Austin, is poised to revolutionize cancer treatment and transform proton therapy with innovative brain positron emission tomography scanner technology.

Dr. Karol Lang, principal investigator

Dr. Lang spearheads a team of innovators – entrepreneurial lead Firas Abouzahr, technical lead Dr. John Cesar, and industry mentor Dr. Carlos Schuster – dedicated to pushing the boundaries of medical device technology for cancer therapy.

The team blends their technical experience in particle physics and medical imaging, commercialization expertise, and their participation in the National Science Foundation’s National I-Corps program to advance medical science and pave the way for a future where precision and efficiency define cancer care.

“Our aim is to transform proton therapy by providing clinical teams with near real-time dosimetry and imaging feedback during treatment,” says Dr. Lang, emphasizing the team’s commitment to enhancing patient care and treatment efficacy.

Dr. John Cesar, technical lead

With a focus on modular design and advanced detector technology, their scanner, supported by the UT Austin-Portugal program and backed by Dr. Lang’s previous NSF award for neutrinoless double beta decay research, promises unprecedented timing and precision in image-guided proton therapy.

Targeting proton therapy centers and medical device manufacturers, the team’s technology offers a comprehensive solution for enhanced patient care and treatment efficacy. By providing near real-time quantitative feedback, their scanner enables therapy centers to deliver higher-quality treatment while increasing patient throughput.

As the team moves forward, the technology serves as a catalyst for advancing research in medical physics and radiation oncology. By offering a tool for assessing novel beam delivery methods like FLASH radiotherapy, their scanner supports the exploration of innovative approaches to cancer treatment. Moreover, the project creates valuable learning opportunities for students, preparing them for careers in medical physics and engineering.

Firas Abouzahr, entrepreneurial lead

“Being part of the NSF National I-Corps program is an exciting opportunity for our team,” said Dr. Lang. “It provides us with the resources and guidance necessary to translate our cutting-edge research into tangible solutions that can make a meaningful impact in cancer treatment. We are thrilled to embark on this journey and look forward to the insights and connections the program will offer as we advance our brain PET scanner technology.”

The team is actively seeking feedback from medical professionals, physicists, and experts in radiation oncology to ensure that their innovative brain PET scanner technology meets the diverse unmet needs of patients and healthcare providers.

Interested stakeholders, including medical

Dr. Carlos Schuster, industry mentor

professionals, physicists, and researchers in the field, are encouraged to participate in the team’s customer discovery process by providing valuable insights and perspectives. To contribute to this important effort and help shape the future of cancer treatment, individuals can reach out to the team at firasabouzahr@utmail.utexas.edu.

The team would like to acknowledge the continued support of the UT Austin-Portugal program and encourages stakeholders to review their outreach articles on In-beam PET and FLASH proton therapy.

Learn more about the NSF I-Corps program and apply for the next cohort online. For more information and to learn more about the NSF I-Corps program, contact Weston Waldo at weston.waldo@austin.utexas.edu.