USC Dornsife scientists put the cancer patient at the center of scientific discovery
Peter Kuhn, center, talks about using social media to securely and anonymously share disease data for research purposes. Photos courtesy of Phuoc Van Nguyen.

USC Dornsife scientists put the cancer patient at the center of scientific discovery

Peter Kuhn of biological sciences travels to Vietnam, where he explains the university’s personalized approach to treatment and research at an international oncology conference.
ByZen Vuong

Technology allows scientists to put the patient first, USC Dornsife’s Peter Kuhn, one of the founding members of the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience, told an international oncology conference in Vietnam.

“The internet-based technologies we are developing at USC can connect and help patients around the world,” said Kuhn, professor of biological sciences.

Kuhn spoke about a patient-centric approach to cancer treatment and research in a forum called “Era of Hope,” held on Sept. 8 in Ho Chi Min City. The forum was part of The 1st Vietnam Multidisciplanary Oncology Conference, hosted by the Salt Cancer Initiative, a nonprofit that provides information, education and support to cancer patients and caregivers in Vietnam. About 1,000 cancer patients, oncologists and medical students attended the weeklong series of events.

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Thuy Truong visits with patients at an oncology hospital in Vietnam.

USC’s global convergent science initiative in cancer is aimed at providing patients with hope for the future and with certainty about their cancer care,” said Kuhn, professor of medicine at Keck School of Medicine of USC and professor of biomedical engineering, and aerospace and mechanical engineering at USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

“Our collaboration with the Salt Cancer Initiative is a critical piece in working directly with the patient community in Vietnam.”

The president of the nonprofit, Thuy Truong, a lung cancer survivor and USC alumna, said, “It was the vision and commitment of Salt Cancer Initiative and its co-organizers to provide mental support for cancer patients in Vietnam so that no cancer patient has to face this fatal disease alone.”

An international initiative

Kuhn talked about USC’s Convergent Science Initiative – Cancer (CSI-Cancer). The multidisciplinary project quantifies how cancer evolves over time, forecasts how an individual’s cancer will progress and quantifies health.

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Kuhn listens to a presentation at the multidisciplinary oncology conference.

One of the projects under this umbrella is CancerBase, an international cancer mapping initiative that enables patients to use social media to securely and anonymously share their cancer data. The online tool enables patients to better understand the progression of their own treatment and cancer as well as to compare their journey to that of people facing a similar cancer.

CancerBase also enables researchers to gather basic cancer data in real time, which could speed up cancer research. Scientists currently need to wait years until they can review analyses of data from cancer surveillance programs across the United States.

“USC’s focus on solving wicked problems that affects our global society has enabled us to build a convergent science initiative that puts the patient at the center of scientific discovery,” Kuhn said.

The USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience program draws from a diverse network of scientists, engineers and students in the search for biomedical discovery, innovation and real-world solutions. The goal is to fast-track detection and cures for diseases ranging from microbial infections to Alzheimer’s and cancer.