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High tech road map kills liver cancer

August 23, 2012 2:58:36 PM PDT
Sixteen-thousand new cases of liver cancer are diagnosed each year. Surgery can help remove the tumors but it's risky and can lead to serious complications. Now a new technology is giving doctors directions to help kill a killer.

Richie Ruben has a passion for all things sports, but what he didn't see coming was liver cancer.

"I thought actually it was a gall bladder problem," Ruben said.

It was a tumor. Surgery to remove it would be dangerous because of its location. So Dr. William Jarnigan of Memorial Sloan-Kettering used an organ positioning system. Similar to a GPS, the OPS uses cameras instead of satellites as guidance.

"It's pretty much like the GPS system in your car where you can actually see the road, the route you are taking," Jarnigan said.

Developed by engineers at Vanderbilt University, the system uses an optical probe to safely enter the organ's surface.

"Turns out in the process of presenting a liver for surgery, you deform it, you change its shape from what it looks like pre-operably," Dr. Michael Miga, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering Co-founder of the Vanderbilt Initiative in Surgery and Engineering (ViSE) at Vanderbilt University, said.

The 3-D model makes it easier for surgeons to target unhealthy tissue and steer clear of healthy tissues

"It allowed us to place the probe precisely and deliver the energy that needed to be delivered to kill the tumor," Jarnigan said.

Richie was out of the hospital in two days and back to work in two weeks cancer free.

"I feel great (knocking on wood), I feel great," Ruben said.

A home run for this sports fan whose only dream is to be.

"Back at the ball park, back at the Yankees game," he said.

The OPS is currently being tested in hospitals across the U.S. Dr. Miga says if it continues to be a success, the device could create a bigger safety margin allowing doctors to perform more aggressive surgeries with much less risk.

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