Nathan Jackson
Nathan Jackson

Nathan Jackson, an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, is receiving American Cancer Society Institutional Research Grant funding for a pilot study on developing a new way to detect ovarian cancer.

The project, being conducted in conjunction with the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center, will focus on developing a device — a probe to specifically target the biomarker for ovarian cancer. It will also involve developing the device’s acoustofluidic particle separation capability that can be utilized for multiple biomarkers for cancer cell detection.

Jackson said this device would be a new and innovative concept in the early and accurate detection of ovarian cancer biomarkers. The device is described as a “multi-task, ultrasensitive and highly selective sensor.”

According to the American Cancer Society, there are no reliable screening tests for ovarian cancer. Currently, ovarian cancer screening tests include ultrasound and blood tests. While these tests can be useful, they have limitations. In the case of ultrasound, the test uses sound waves to detect tumors or masses, but the test cannot determine if the mass is cancerous or benign. In the case of the blood test, which measures a protein called CA-125, that tool isn’t always accurate in cancer detection because high CA-125 doesn’t always correlate with cancer.

Jackson’s award of $30,000 is to be spent by March 30, 2025. The pilot study’s purpose is to assess the feasibility of developing this technology further and submitting proposals for additional funding.