What do the International Space Station and a breast cancer treatment center
have in common? More than you might think, actually. A new device is under
development at the Centre for Surgical Invention and Innovation that utilizes
the same robotics technology found on the ISS to automate MRI-guided breast
biopsies, leading to great gains in efficiency, patient comfort, precision, and
access for the process.
The device, known as the Image-Guided Autonomous Robot, will be used for
patients deemed as high-risk for breast cancer; these patients must submit to
annual mammograms and MRIs in order to watch for developing symptoms. IGAR, as
it's called, will work with an MRI scanner to combine an MRI, biopsy, and even
ablation of breast lesions into a single, easy procedure.
IGAR utilizes technology taken straight from the International Space Station,
which Anvari and his team have gained access to through a partnership with
MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates. This partnership, it was explained in a press release,
has the secondary goal of the "promotion of Canadian talent in the
development and use of robotics in patient care."
"The IGAR project will foster Canadian Highly Qualified People HQP
development among the diverse members of the Clinical Advisory Group directing
robotic development, as well as the management team leading the new company
created," it continued. "Addionally, it will create new avenues for
medical research in Canada to validate new technologies entering the
Should an abnormality be discovered in the MRI scan, a radiologist can use
the IGAR software to tell the device where to insert the biopsy needle. In
early tests, explains CSII CEO Dr. Mehran Anvari, IGAR has been able to deliver
the needle with a great deal of accuracy, coming within 1 millimeter of the
lesion. Because the whole process is automated, IGAR's precision is entirely
independent of the attending radiologist's skill level. This could, continues
Anvari, lead to a significant increase in patient discomfort - after all, the
procedure's already unpleasant enough as it is.
What's more, radiologists could also enjoy a great deal more efficiency,
moving biopsies out of the operating room and into the radiation suite.
"I've been working in the field of sugical robotics since 1995, when
the first series of robots were developed for use in minimally-invasive
surgery," explained Anvari in a video attached to the press release.
"I've actually designed three robotic platforms which we believe had
significant potential, both in the field of telerobotics but also image-guided
surgery and automated systems. We were recently provided funding by the
government to found the Centre for Surgical Invention and Innovation as a
partnership between McMasters University and MDA."
"Our system sucks out about a centimeter cube of the tissue, so
depending on the size of the lesion, you might take it all out during the
biopsy," explained Anvari. "In the case that a lesion isn't entirely
removed, our final version will allow for a needle-based ablation device to be
passed back along the same path to destroy the rest. We hope that this will
consequently reduce the rate of lumpectomy surgeries performed after