The Bahl Center

What is the Kavita and Lalit Bahl Center for Metabolomics and Imaging?
This center, created by two generous gifts from Kavita and Lalit Bahl totaling $13.75 million, is a one-of-a-kind translational research program that will transform the future of cancer knowledge and care.

The center will advance the study of cancer metabolomics, facilitated by state-of-the-art imaging technology. It will enable Stony Brook University Cancer Center to execute cutting-edge precision-driven cancer research and diagnostic imaging breakthroughs, which will power the evolution of individualized cancer care into the tomorrow of cancer medicine.

Why is this gift so important?
As the amount of public research funding and public support in general continues to decrease in the higher education realm, philanthropy is a major source of investment capital for public universities like Stony Brook. Extensive capital expenditures are necessary to provide state-of-the-art technologies and facilities to foster the University’s leadership in the STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine) fields.

The Bahl gifts will help increase the knowledge of cancer and enhance the search for more effective ways of treating and preventing the disease. The money will enable Stony Brook to recruit top researchers and their teams, which will position Stony Brook in the forefront of translational cancer research.

Why is a center like this needed?
Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In 2012, there were approximately 14 million new diagnoses of cancer, with 8.2 million cancer-related deaths. WHO predicts that the number of new cases will rise by about 70 percent over the next two decades. In the United States, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimates that in 2016, new diagnoses of cancer will number 1,685,210, with deaths caused by cancer numbering 595,690.

The Bahl Center’s mission is to gain a thorough understanding of cancer so that it can be prevented, treated and eventually eliminated. The Center will devote significant scientific and academic resources to new cancer research endeavors. It will allow Stony Brook Cancer Center to conduct revolutionary research that incorporates imaging expertise and innovations to help researchers better understand the many forms of cancer, create better diagnostics and improved therapeutics, and devise new preventive methods.

Why is Stony Brook Medicine the right place for the Bahl Center?
Through research and discovery, Stony Brook University is changing the world. One of our goals is to make significant breakthroughs in cancer research. At the leading edge of this enterprise is the Stony Brook University Cancer Center, connecting the University’s strengths in the hard sciences such as chemistry, physics and applied mathematics, with imaging technology and specialists, high-performance computing, epidemiologists, microbiologists, pathologists, and an incredible team of bench-to-bedside translational cancer researchers.

The Kavita and Lalit Bahl Center for Metabolomics and Imaging will reach maximum potential under the extraordinary leadership of Dr. Yusuf A. Hannun, an internationally-renowned expert in lipid biochemistry and the study of metabolomics.

  • Lipid Signaling and Metabolism in Cancer Program
    Stony Brook’s expertise in lipidomics and metabolism is nationally recognized. Metabolomics, an emerging field in cancer investigation, is the most promising approach to truly individualized cancer treatment. By exploring the metabolic pathways of cancer cells, physicians and scientists can unlock their influence on the development and proliferation of disease.
  • Oncogenic Drivers and Mechanisms of Carcinogenesis
    This program takes biochemical, molecular, cellular and genomic approaches, coupled with in vivo studies, to define and target metabolic pathways driving cancer growth.
  • Imaging, Biomarker Discovery and Engineering Sciences
    This program allows scientists to analyze molecular information about malignant and non-malignant cells to help create better understanding of the genetics of cancer and help find beneficial treatments. At Stony Brook, computational oncologists have already developed an integrative biomedical informatics platform.
  • Advanced Medical Imaging
    Stony Brook provides unrivaled expertise in imaging. Stony Brook is part of the team who helped create the MRI. In fact, Stony Brook’s contributions to MRI technology won a Nobel Prize. And one of our prominent Stony Brook faculty invented the major chemical used in PET scanning technology around the world. The Bahl Center will house two PET scanners, which images the tracer molecules.

What other experts will be at the Bahl Center?
The Bahl gift will enable Stony Brook Cancer Center to recruit top faculty experts in specific fields.
Planned recruitments include:

  • An oncologic imaging researcher who will focus on prognosticating, assessing response to therapy, and predicting when and how tumors might spread in order to allow individualization of targeted treatments.
  • A matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization (MALDI) researcher who is an expert at combining mass spectrometry with imaging. This will allow researchers to image molecules in tissue specimens and study cancer pathology by introducing previously inaccessible results on cancer metabolism.
  • A magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) researcher who will apply and develop MRS technology to allow researchers to image metabolism in a patient and help further the future of diagnostics and pathology.
  • An experimental therapeutics researcher who will focus on identifying metabolic enzymes which are optimal targets for drug discovery and therapeutic development. This will help speed the trajectory of research from the “bench to bedside,” to promote better patient care and improved outcomes.

Where is the Bahl Center located?
The Bahl Center and its laboratories are located in the Medical and Research Translation (MART) building on Lauterbur Drive.

The Science

What is metabolomics and why is it important in cancer studies?
Metabolomics is one of the most promising approaches in cancer therapy. It enables the targeting of cancer metabolism pathways once thought to be untreatable by traditional drug therapies. With an understanding of cancer metabolism, specifically the changes in pathways unique to cancer cells versus normal cells, the disease can be detected, treated and ultimately eradicated. Lipidomics, which studies how fatty molecules regulate cancer behavior and responses to therapy, is a major branch of metabolomics.

Why is imaging important to metabolomics and cancer studies?
A true understanding of cancer requires a thorough knowledge of how cancer starts, grows and spreads, how those processes can be aborted and how different individuals with cancer respond to different types of treatment. X-rays, computed tomography (CT) and ultrasound allow researchers to see different organs and structures inside the body. Molecular imaging made possible by the cyclotron and positive emission tomography (PET) scanners provides views of what is happening inside the cells, both healthy and malignant. The ability to visualize the metabolic processes of cancer cells sheds light on the origins of cancer, as well as its growth and death.

How will research and discoveries at the center help to prevent cancer?
At the Bahl Center, teams of renowned scientists and researchers have the resources and cutting-edge technologies they need to gain an understanding of the pathogenesis of cancer, how it spreads and how it can be stopped. The center’s unique program, with an area of concentration in the critical fields of cancer cell metabolomics and lipidomics, are expanding the scope of discovery from basic science to applied research to diagnostics and prognostics.

The cyclotron and positron emission tomography (PET) scanners at the Bahl Center allow researchers to visualize, in real time, the metabolic processes of cancer cells on a molecular level. The cyclotron can create carbon 11 (C-11) radioactive isotopes on site, which can then be injected and act as tracers for PET scanning. Researchers are able to collect vast amounts of new data to document and analyze how cancer cells grow, multiply and respond to treatment regimens, which can lead to the creation of improved novel therapeutics tailored to an individual’s specific cancer.

The implications for the future development of cancer preventatives, diagnostics and therapeutics are enormous. What the actual discoveries will be is impossible to know, but as with all disease, prevention and early detection are the goals.

How will the center impact related public health issues?
According to the World Cancer Research Fund, following a nutritious diet, staying at a healthy weight and exercising regularly could prevent approximately 33 percent of common cancers. Research conducted at the Bahl Center will examine how epidemiological and lifestyle factors such as nutrition, tobacco and alcohol use, obesity and diabetes are linked to increased cancer incidence, with a particular emphasis on identifying people who are at the highest risk. The findings could help shape educational and public health policies going forward.

The People

Who are Kavita and Lalit Bahl?
The Bahls are residents of Setauket, NY. Lalit Bahl, an employee of Renaissance Technologies, and his wife, Kavita, were inspired to give to Stony Brook in light of Renaissance founder Jim Simons’ matching gift program to the University.

Upon learning about Stony Brook’s history in medical imaging discoveries – starting in the 1970s when a Stony Brook Chemistry professor, Paul Lauterbur, developed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology and subsequently received a Nobel Prize – the Bahls decided to help Stony Brook establish a molecular imaging laboratory.

The Bahls recognize Stony Brook has been a notable leader in both discovering and using breakthrough imaging technology for research and clinical purposes. They believe that the combination of the cyclotron and molecular imaging with Stony Brook’s research expertise will lead to important discoveries related to cancer and other diseases.

Who is the leader of the Bahl Center?
At the helm of the center is Yusuf A. Hannun, MD, an international leader in lipid biochemistry and the role of the metabolism in cancers. Dr. Hannun's studies have increased the understanding of the mechanism and regulatory strategies involved in lipid metabolism and their roles in cancers.

Yusuf A. Hannun, MD, Director of the Stony Brook Cancer Center, Vice Dean for Cancer Medicine and Joel Strum Kenny Professor in Cancer Research

Dr. Hannun is a renowned physician-scientist whose career has spanned more than 30 years as a cancer clinician and researcher, investigating the lipid mediators of cancer cell signaling. He has published more than 500 scientific papers, edited seven books and holds seven patents.