Anthony Bao

Hello, my name is Anthony Bao and I'm currently a senior at BASIS Scottsdale High School. Welcome to my blog, Creating a Brighter Future with Radiotherapy, where I will post updates on my senior research project. For the next 3 months, I will work with Dr. Anshuman Panda at the Mayo Clinic to explore my interest in computational biology and cancer biology. But before we begin, I want to talk about what motivated me to pursue this research.

While working at the Mayo Clinic between my sophomore and junior years of high school, I gained my first exposure to the medical field. I was responsible for managing patient affairs at the information desk, where I gathered insight into the importance of human interaction in healthcare. In addition to these duties, I also had the opportunity to shadow physicians and even observe a neurosurgeon at work.

Around this time, I had a growing interest in computer programming, which was quickly becoming my favorite pastime. Besides dabbling in web/app development, this interest compelled me to teach computer programming in the two school clubs that I run: the Web Development Club and the Robotics Club. I also applied my coding skills in internships at Arizona State University (ASU), where I worked in the SWARM lab and the CySIS lab. Although this work was fulfilling, I wanted to apply my programming background to biomedical research, a field that I was already beginning to explore through shadowing the ASU International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) team.

Then, last summer, while working as an intern at Systems Imagination, a local bioinformatics company, I was able to combine my two greatest academic interests: biology and computer science. At Systems Imagination, I wrote Java routines to normalize and analyze The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) data in preparation for applying machine learning and cluster analysis. This was meaningful work because TCGA data is used by scientists and doctors all over the world to help study and diagnose cancer. Besides gaining more programming experience, this internship opened my mind to computational biology in cancer research.

For my research project, I will be working with the radiology department at Mayo Clinic to help set up an infrastructure to improve diagnosis and treatment of patients who receive MRI scans. Mayo Clinic has recently installed a cyclotron for producing radioactive nucleotides (PET tracers) and a PET/MR machine that is capable of acquiring nuclear medicine and MRI data in a single exam. This new combination of technology will allow Mayo Clinic to offer next-generation prostate imaging to cancer patients.

I will utilize machine learning to help streamline the treatment process and study the effect of different types of radiotherapy treatments on prostate cancer. To do this, I will need to analyze MRI scans and compile and categorize the patient information from 300 MR cases. Technical challenges include setting up the hardware, software, and image databases, as well as investigating proper approaches to image screening, staging, therapy planning, and prostate cancer recurrence. Although the main focus of this work will be prostate cancer, it can easily be applied to analyze diseases afflicting other parts of the abdomen.

To learn more about my project, please read my research proposal
For some more exciting research, please read these phenomenal blogs:
Also, feel free to check out my latest projects on Github!

Besides computer programming and biology, my other personal passions include natural history, evolutionary biology, conservation, robotics, violin, fishing, hiking, expanding my rock collection, and playing with my dog (his name is Chewbacca but I call him Chewy)



Thanks for reading, and be sure to stay tuned for my next post!
-Anthony Bao

Comments

  1. Hey Anthony! This sounds amazing! I had no idea you were involved in all of this. So, explain to me what radioactive nucleotides are and what nuclear medicine is? Forgive my ignorance, but do these help with the diagnosis or the treatment of prostate cancer?

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    1. Hi Mrs. Bailey! Nuclear medicine is basically a way to use radioactive tracers, such as PET tracers, which are injected, swallowed, or inhaled, and give off gamma radiation to create images. It's especially useful for early detection.

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  2. Also, what exactly is computational biology? You mentioned your experience at Systems Imagination; what exactly were you doing (in lay people's terms)? I know you described it, but it was all a bit over my head.

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    1. Hi Nicole! Computational biology/bioinformatics is basically developing computer programs to analyze and interpret biological information, such as large cancer data sets, which is what I did at Systems Imagination. Using this, you could search for patterns in the data and create models.

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  3. Hi Anthony- Your background in comp bio is very impressive! Will the improved infrastructure your working on help with prognosis and early detection for future patients at Mayo? Also, can you expand upon some specific abdominal diseases other than prostate cancer that might be analyzed? (P.S. Chewy is the cutest dog on the blog)

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    1. Hi Carla, the main theme of my project is to streamline the diagnostic and treatment process of prostate cancer patients, so if I'm successful, this could help radiologists quickly create better treatment plans and make the whole process easier for the patients. Other abdominal diseases that I might look at include kidney or bladder cancer

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  4. Hello Anthony! I am really interested in the machine learning aspect of your senior project! What types of machine learning will you be using? will you only use convolutional neural network to examine MRIs or will you use other types as well? I'm excited to see how this project turns out. By the way, your pong game was really fun, especially because of all the cheats you added.

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    1. Hi Vijay! I'm not sure on the specifics yet, but I am using mostly python, probably with Matlab. I will also be using the TensorFlow library.

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  5. Wow, Anthony! I have heard a lot about computational biology and its applications to cancer research, and I am very excited to hear what you learn about prostate cancer and methods of analysis. It sounds like you already have a lot of what you will be doing figured out. I look forward to seeing what direction you take with your project!

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    1. Hi Nathan! Although I'm still not sure about the specifics, It'll be interesting to see that options I have for the project.

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  6. Hey Anthony, Wow, this project sounds amazing. Its amazing how you have so many interests, and how you're able to part take in projects that help you expand your knowledge about those interests. I was wondering what other diseases your research could apply to? Also, how did you use your programming background at iGEM?

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    1. Hi Shiza, some other diseases that I could also look at include kidney and bladder cancer, or maybe stomach cancer. At iGEM I didn't do any programming and I left because I wanted to do work at Systems Imagination.

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  7. Hello Anthony! Your project is exciting. I have had a lot of interest in becoming a Oncologist. I have heard that Prostate cancer is one of the deadliest cancers. How would doctors be able to detect it early on? Also, is proton beam therapy more accurate then other types of treatment, like Chemotherapy?

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    1. Hi Anthony, prostate cancer is indeed one of the deadliest cancers, and among men, it's second deadliest cancer, after skin cancer. Paying attention to the symptoms, such as urinary tract problems, can help with early detection, but oftentimes there are no symptoms at all and the risk dramatically increases with age. It is generally agreed that proton beam therapy is more effective than other forms of radiotherapy in most cases, because it is more precise and can controlled to reach a certain depth. Compared with other types of treatment like chemotherapy and immunotherapy, the optimal treatment depends on the specific case and type of cancer.

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  8. Hi Anthony! Your project sounds super interesting and i am sure you will be successful with it. Not only that but, your background and experience is extraordinary. Will you be applying more than just prostrate cancer to this project? Also how will you be learning the techniques of analyzing the MRI scans?

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    1. Hi Isabella. So far, the main focus of the physics lab I'm working with is prostate cancer, but later on, I may apply my work to other types of cancer. To learn more about MRI, I will shadow MRI technicians at Mayo.

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  9. Hi Anthony!
    I think you chose an amazing topic for your senior research project. This is a subject where if successful, the results could end up being an essential part of a future society. I have faith that your project will be very successful taking into account your extensive background. I am excited to sss how it all happens!
    Good luck!

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    1. Thanks Kassi! I'm still working out the details of what I'll be doing, but it's going to be interesting work.

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  10. Hi Anthony!
    I think it is great that you found a field of work that combines both of your favorite interests while applying them both towards a common issue in today's day. I cannot wait to see how they will further implement the research you are working on and expand it into other types of cancer diagnosis. What other diseases can you analyze through its application? I look forward to reading more in the oncoming weeks. Good luck!
    Zafeerah Sheikh

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    1. Hi Zafeerah. This work can easily be applied to other cancers, particularly in the abdomen. It would be interesting to look at and compare the image biomarkers for different types of cancer.

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  11. Hi Anthony! I think you chose an amazing topic and I personally hope you have a lot of success in your research. My only question is that I'm a little confused on how your computer programming applies to your current topic. Besides that, I'm really looking forward to the progress to be made in the upcoming weeks. Good luck!
    Adam Hoffmeister

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    1. Hi Adam. I will be doing a lot of programming in my project, mostly with Python. I will also do a lot of machine learning.

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  12. Wow this is really interesting. I'm pretty impressed with the work you're doing so far and it's getting me really interested. I don't have much to say, because this is the early stage of your project, but you said one of your jobs was to improve the screening exam. Do you have any ideas for that?
    Anyway Good job!
    -Adam

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