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A robot to destroy breast cancer cells

Researchers at the University of Maryland are developing a robot able to detect and destroy breast cancer cells in a single session. After a tumor is located on an MRI, the robot will perform a biopsy of the breast while the patient is inside the scanner. 'If the biopsy displays cancerous cells, the robot will then insert a probe into the breast until it reaches the tumor. The probe will then burn the cancer cells until they are destroyed.' This looks great, but the researchers have only built a prototype. After they refine this robot, they'll need to go through clinical trials and obtain FDA approval. So this is not a robot that will appear on the medical market before several years. But read more...
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Written by Roland Piquepaille, Inactive on

Researchers at the University of Maryland are developing a robot able to detect and destroy breast cancer cells in a single session. After a tumor is located on an MRI, the robot will perform a biopsy of the breast while the patient is inside the scanner. 'If the biopsy displays cancerous cells, the robot will then insert a probe into the breast until it reaches the tumor. The probe will then burn the cancer cells until they are destroyed.' This looks great, but the researchers have only built a prototype. After they refine this robot, they'll need to go through clinical trials and obtain FDA approval. So this is not a robot that will appear on the medical market before several years. But read more...

3D rendering of a robot in a MRI system

You can see on the top of the figure on the left the schematic of the overall system. The bottom part shows the robotic device, "which consists of several custom-machined polypropylene parts. The top carbon-fiber rod is coupled to the piston rod. The slider is clamped tightly to the top carbon-fiber rod, while it is free to move relative to the bottom carbon-fiber rod. In operation, as the piston rod extends, the top carbonfiber rod and the slider move with it, advancing the RF probe. Meanwhile, the bottom carbon-fiber rod remains stationary, acting as a linear guide. In addition, a tissue clamp is attached to the rightmost support." (Credit: University of Maryland)

This project has been led by mechanical engineering professor Jaydev Desai and members of his Robotics, Automation, Manipulation, and Sensing (RAMS) laboratory, icluding graduate student Kevin Lister. Another researcher involved is associate professor Rao Gullapalli of the University of Baltimore Department of Radiology.

Here are additional explanations given by the researchers. "With the robot, the three months between mammogram and treatment can be reduced to a hospital visit and the cancer can be stopped before it spreads, said Gullapalli. But what makes the robot stand out is its ability to work inside an MRI machine, Gullapalli said. Because it is made of titanium and stainless steel, the robot won't be disrupted by the scanner's magnetic field. The robot can also access areas in the human body that surgeons can't, said Lister. [And] Desai said he and his team have built only a preliminary model so far; not a fully functional one. The final version of the robot will take about four years to complete, he said."

The RAMS news page adds that the team received a $1.27 million grant from the National Institute of Health for the project named "Robotic Haptic Feedback System for Bx/RFA of Breast Tumor under Continuous MRI." "The goal of this project is to develop a novel teleoperated robotic system with haptic (sense of touch) feedback capability that will provide accurate feedback to the physician performing Breast biopsy (Bx) and/or Radio-frequency ablation (RFA) under continuous Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)."

This research work has been presented at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, held in Pasadena, CA, USA, 2008. Here is a link to this technical paper, Towards a Needle Driver Robot for Radiofrequency Ablation of Tumors under Continuous MRI (PDF format, 6 pages, 338 KB). The above figure has been extracted from this paper.

Here is the beginning of the abstract. "This paper presents an initial design and feasibility study for a 1-DOF Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) compatible needle driver robot for radiofrequency ablation (RFA). This initial design and study is necessary to further understand how to improve on many of the shortcomings in the standard RFA procedure. Combining needle driving with advanced image tracking techniques could provide improved solutions to these clinical limitations. In this paper, we present a hydraulically-actuated 1-DOF needle driver robot that is capable of advancing a radiofrequency (RF) probe into tissue at controllable velocities and positions within an MRI scanner, while collecting force feedback data and maintaining all standards of MRI-compatible design."

And here is an excerpt of the concluding remarks of this paper. "From the preceding discussion and results, we see that the design presented in this paper is MRI-compatible with regards to image quality, position control, and force sensing along the axis of motion. However, the faulty force readings in the y- and z-axes remain a significant limitation of the design. Solutions to the force-sensing problem will be explored in the next step of the design process and feasibility study. In addition, while preliminary studies suggest that there is a detectable difference in feedback forces during the RFA needle insertion into an inclusion, further human factors studies are required to confirm this hypothesis."

If you're interested in this subject, Desai's team is also working on robots able to help neurosurgeons. Here is a link to Towards Design and Fabrication of a Miniature Mricompatible Robot for Applications in Neurosurgery (PDF format, 8 pages, 716 KB). This paper appeared in the Proceedings of the ASME 2008 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences & Computers and Information in Engineering Conference (IDETC/CIE 2008), which was held on August 3-6, 2008, in Brooklyn, New York.

Sources: Chris Yu, Diamondback Online, University of Maryland, October 10, 2008; and various websites

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