Samuel Achilefu, PhD

Developer of cancer goggles hopes to inspire children in the developing world to pursue their talents

Samuel Achilefu, PhD, oversees a variety of cancer-fighting projects. They include development of goggles that help surgeons see and remove cancer and a therapy that uses a combination of light and a photosensitizing drug to kill malignant cells.

They look like futuristic eyewear. But the goggles developed by Samuel Achilefu, PhD, and his team have a much greater purpose: They help surgeons see and remove cancer.

When dye is injected into a patient’s tumor, cancerous cells glow when viewed with the goggles and infrared light. The technology, which awaits further testing, has been used successfully on patients to ensure no stray tumor cells remain after surgery.

Achilefu, who was installed Jan. 28 as the Michel M. Ter-Pogossian Professor of Radiology at Washington University School of Medicine, also is a Siteman Cancer Center research member. He and his wife, Nnena, have been married 21 years. They have a daughter, Chisara, 19, who attends Washington University, and son, Kelechi, 16.

Achilefu, 53, discussed his journey from childhood to the development of his cancer-seeing goggles, to what he hopes is yet to come.

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