August 30, 2013

WPI Wins $3M Grant For Robotic Cancer Treatment

Worcester Polytechnic Institute has won a five-year, $3 million federal grant toward development of a minimally invasive, robotic surgical approach to treating brain tumors, the school announced.

WPI said the grant, from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), can potentially open the door to more effective therapies for cancers of the brain and other organs.

"This award is also a powerful illustration of the major advances in medicine that can be realized through collaborations between engineers and clinicians," said WPI Provost Eric Overström.

The team of researchers is led by Gregory Fischer, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and robotics engineering at WPI and director of the school's Automation and Interventional Medicine Laboratory.

The system will use a robot designed to work within the bore of an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scanner to precisely guide a probe through a dime-sized opening in the cranium to the tumor with the aid of real-time MRI images, the WPI statement said. The probe will destroy the tumor by heating it with a high-intensity focused ultrasound.

"For surgeries that require precise knowledge of the location of structures and tumors in the body, real-time MRI imagery is invaluable," Fischer said. "Once a hole is made in the skull, for example, the brain may swell and shift, and even images acquired just prior to the surgery will no longer be accurate. Live images enable real-time control and a high degree of accuracy."

Patients diagnosed with brain tumors typically face one of two courses of treatment, each with limitations, WPI said. The first, stereotactic radiation surgery, in which a radiation beam is focused on the tumor, is noninvasive and can increase survival, but it may take multiple treatments to relieve symptoms and is difficult to confirm whether the tumor is destroyed. The second option, open-brain surgery, provides quick relief of symptoms and tissue samples for lab testing, but is highly invasive and can lead to serious complications.

The grant is the second from the NIH that WPI announced this week. It also secured $1.94 million over five years to help researchers work on therapies to heal cardiac muscle damage.

Read More:

WPI Gets NIH Grant For Heart Therapy Research

Read more

WPI Gets Funding For Assistive Robot Research

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