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Cancer Breakthroughs Aim to Give Doctors Full Vision

The World Medical Innovation Forum opened in Boston on Monday morning with short looks at the next wave of breakthroughs in cancer research. Much of the research focused on different ways to detect and prevent cancer, and to predict how tumors would respond to different medical and therapeutic treatments.

There were several presentations that focused on emerging medical technologies that are transforming cancer treatment and research. One of the biggest issues in modern cancer treatment is poor visualization—doctors and surgeons cannot fully see tumors during surgery and biopsy. Much of the innovation in cancer technology is focused on improving visualization, and increasing the standard of care for cancer patients.

Jayender Jagadeeson, from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, presented on image-guided surgery. He discussed Brigham and Women’s advanced multimodality image-guided operation suite, or AMIGO, which uses intraoperative imaging to improve surgery outcome. By using cameras and computers, surgeons are able to see more of the tumor, and remove more of it during the first operation, instead of needing second or third procedures. Jagadeeson also mentioned the future of virtual reality, or VR, in the operating room as a way to give doctors multiple views of one area of the body during surgery, further improving visualization of tumors.

Massachusetts General Hospital pathologist, Linda Hariri, also discussed using new image technology to improve care of cancer patients — in her case, with a focus on early detection and diagnosis. In order to detect lung cancer, doctors need to collect enough tissue to both diagnose the tumor and to run tests on it, but current biopsies often don’t provide enough tissue to do both, preventing early detection of malignant tumors. Hariri’s research is focused on developing an optical imagining tool that can better guide doctors to lung tumors and increase their biopsy yield. Further, she and her team are aiming to develop a virtual optical biopsy for diagnosing, removing the need for full biopsy. This technology aims to make lung cancer easier to catch and treat, and hopefully reduce its fatality rate.

Virtual biopsy is also the purpose behind BrainSpec, a new web-based software platform presented by Alexander Lin of Brigham and Women’s. BrainSpec, which currently focuses on brain tumors, aims to detect cancer without surgical intervention. Brigham and Women’s Innovations Hub supported a prototype of the software. Using state of the art imaging technology, user-friendly interfaces, and focusing on data visualization, Lin and his team hope BrainSpec will become the future of brain cancer diagnosis, reducing healthcare costs and improving quality of life for cancer patients.

Overall, there’s a clear focus on using new and emerging imaging technology to detect, treat, and prevent cancer from spreading. Virtual and optical images are the future of cancer surgery and treatment.

Casey Nugent

Casey Nugent

    Casey Nugent is an editorial intern for MedTech Boston. She’s currently working on her BFA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing at Emerson College in Boston. Outside of working at MedTech Boston, Casey enjoys drinking coffee, going to the theater, goofing around with friends, and hanging out with dogs.

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