Baylor College of Medicine

Dr. Eberlin demonstrating the MasSpec Pen in her lab
Dr. Livia Eberlin demonstrates the MasSpec Pen in her lab, the Eberlin Lab for Medical Mass Spectrometry.

Eberlin Lab receives $3 million grant from The Marcus Foundation

Homa Warren


Houston, TX -

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women, and surgical resection is the most common treatment option for patients. To help improve the effectiveness of resection, researchers in the Eberlin Lab for Medical Mass Spectrometry at Baylor College of Medicine will receive $3 million in funding from The Marcus Foundation to further develop and validate the MasSpec Pen technology in breast cancer surgeries. The MasSpec Pen is a breakthrough device that was developed by Dr. Livia Eberlin and colleagues for intraoperative use and surgical guidance.

“One of the aims of our project is to refine the technology to improve usability by surgeons in the operating room in a variety of breast cancer procedures,” said Dr. Livia Eberlin associate professor in the division of surgical oncology and vice chair for research in the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery at Baylor. “Most importantly, the primary goal is to validate the performance of the MasSpec Pen and its value to surgeons as they determine what tissues to remove and preserve during breast cancer surgeries.” 

“When I met Dr. Eberlin and understood how the MasSpec Pen could help surgeons and ultimately impact patient lives, it was an easy yes to support the expansion of this innovative tool. It’s absolutely brilliant technology,” said Bernie Marcus, chairman of The Marcus Foundation and co-founder of The Home Depot.

The MasSpec Pen is a first-in-field technology that enables ex vivo and in vivo tissue identification in seconds based on molecular analysis, to help guide resection in breast cancer and other cancer surgeries. The Eberlin Lab successfully implemented the tool in a pilot clinical study in the operating room at Baylor with 22 breast cancer patients. Lab members are excited to now enter a new phase of clinical testing with a larger patient cohort with The Marcus Foundation grant support. 

“Our breast cancer surgical team at Baylor is thrilled to continue this important research effort with Dr. Eberlin and with support from The Marcus Foundation. We know it can make a huge impact in our practice and for our patients,” said Dr. Alastair Thompson, professor and section chief of breast surgery and member of the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor. 

The funding will help enroll 200 patients at two affiliate hospitals: Ben Taub Hospital and Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center. Surgeons will use the MasSpec Pen intraoperatively for breast tissue analysis, surgical margin evaluation and to ultimately determine how the technology performs in comparison to the current clinical approach. The goal is to achieve higher than 95% accuracy and for the MasSpec Pen technology to perform faster than the current standards. 

“It’s great when you find funders like The Marcus Foundation that are passionate and aligned with your mission to help patients. We hope that our technology makes a huge impact in the care for patients with cancer,” Eberlin said. 

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