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Ohio State students pursue patent for cancer diagnostic tool

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Some Ohio State engineering students might have invented the next cancer diagnostic tool, but they’re still working on getting a patent.

The OncoFilter was invented by a group of OSU undergraduate students who formed a start-up company last year.

“The OncoFilter is basically a diagnostic tool that can detect multiple proteins from blood simultaneously, and that means that you get a more holistic profile of a cancer patient,” said Kinshuk Mitra, a fourth-year in biomedical engineering and inventor of OncoFilter. “So in the case of ovarian cancer, it means you can make a more powerful diagnosis.”

The project was recognized on a national level with a nomination to the Lemelson-MIT National Collegiate Student Prize innovation competition, which seeks to find the most innovative undergraduate and graduate students, but did not win any of the prizes, according to the Lemelson-MIT website.

But that’s not stopping the team from pursuing patents. Mitra said he will most likely continue working on OncoFilter when he goes to graduate school.

“OncoFilter is becoming a patent, and we are fighting for the patent right now,” Mitra said. “I am probably going to Rice University in Houston, so what we are probably going to do is we are going to take it there and make it part of a much bigger patent portfolio.”

It was a freshmen year research project that inspired the idea of OncoFilter, Mitra said.

The project led Mitra to be named an “Innovator of the Year” in 2013 by the OSU Office of Research’s Innovators of the Year competition.

Michael Tweedle, an OSU professor in the Department of Radiology, Stephanie Spielman chair in cancer imaging and OncoFilter’s chief scientific adviser, said there currently isn’t an effective diagnostic tool for ovarian cancer.

“It becomes a problem because the overall symptoms of ovarian cancer are normal symptoms of patients, especially post-menopausal patients,” he said. “And you can’t just do a million dollars worth of diagnosis on everyone, you know, who has these relatively normal, bloating, cramps and so forth, symptoms.

“You need really good diagnostic tests because if you diagnose the diseases early, the treatments are generally less invasive and more effective,” he said. “If you get diagnosed with cancer and you get sent to the surgeon, that’s a good thing because that means that there is a chance that the surgery can offer a cure.”

The OncoFilter team is working with the Wexner Medical Center James Comprehensive Cancer Center, as well as other universities, to test patient samples, Mitra said.

“We are working with them and getting their samples so we can actually test it on real patient samples and come up with a formula that basically can diagnose ovarian cancer earlier,” he said.

Tweedle said it has been an “amazing experience” to watch the team work on OncoFilter.

“This group, they work on their own time, they come in when they can. I provide a laboratory to them, but I’m not on the patent, it’s their patent and they invented it,” Tweedle said. “I am amazed, and I’ve never seen anything like it in my career.”

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