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Robotics Medicine Technology

A Robot To Destroy Breast Cancer Cells 81

Roland Piquepaille writes "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."
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A Robot To Destroy Breast Cancer Cells

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  • by Jeremiah Cornelius ( 137 ) * on Sunday October 12, 2008 @02:06AM (#25343931) Homepage Journal

    It had been a while. I was beginning to worry something bad had happened to him...

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      Now it appears he has heard of the lapriscope and has most likely expanded it into as unlikely a story as the earlier ones where he misunderstands an impressive, useful and pretty impressive bit of technology. I suppose patients are pretty well named if you've got to wait for the cells taken in the biopsy to grow before the operation is finished.

      A tool to help a GP instead of a specialist would be fantastic, by why go furthur and pretend it has to be a robot?

      • Robotic system (Score:5, Informative)

        by RDW ( 41497 ) on Sunday October 12, 2008 @04:35AM (#25344305)

        There's a better description of the technology from the lab involved here: []

        '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). Some of the primary challenges of this project include: development of a compact robot manipulator, actuation and sensing that is MRI compatible, efficient use of MRI image sequences to guide the Bx needle and/or RFA probe accurately using adaptive control schemes that incorporate soft-tissue properties as the needle/probe traverses the tissue, and an intuitive user-interface which will provide real-time MRI images and Bx needle/RFA probe tracking with respect to the tumor (target) location.'

        You don't have to wait for any cells to grow to make use of the biopsy (it can be assessed directly), but obviously a pathologist will have to examine the sample under a microscope before a treatment decision is made.

        • As long as there is a doctor and the patient has been informed about what's going on, and then the go ahead is given to the robot by the doctor who obtained consent, yeah. I'm very weary of any kind of automatic surgery device. What if it malfuctions? Imagine an automated lobotomy robot: come here, Mr. Patient, I have diagnosed you with a rare brain disorder!
        • This sounds like something that, if it works, would apply to many forms of cancer. Is it just because breast cancer research is popular in funding circles or is there something specific to breast cancer to limit the applicability of the technique to breast cancer tumours?
          • I would guess it's because breast tissue is comparatively accessible, making it easier to biopsy and operate on with new technology such as this.
          • by Ihlosi ( 895663 )

            This sounds like something that, if it works, would apply to many forms of cancer. Is it just because breast cancer research is popular in funding circles or is there something specific to breast cancer to limit the applicability of the technique to breast cancer tumours?

            Yes: Breast cancer occurs in tissue that is easily accessible from the outside and that is not vital for the patient.

            This means you can stick a needle in it and try to thermally destroy the cancer. The same technique could not be applied,

          • by RDW ( 41497 )

            The RFA ('burning') technique is in fact already being applied to certain types of cancer in the kidney, liver and lung:


            It can actually be less invasive than standard surgery.

            MRI-guided surgical manipulators of one kind or another are also being developed for other applications (e.g., the lab working on the breast cancer system also has funding to develop a brain surgery device).

  • First breast cancer cells, next, the world.
    • Yeah. It's a little scary.

      I for one don't want robots roaming around my wife's breasts (or mine).

      Besides, if sci-fi has taught us anything, it's that that "cures for cancer" turn us into zombies.

      • I can picture a malfunction and it blowing the tits right off someone. The ultimate horror story. Now that I think about it, I hope they get the bugs worked out before they build one for prostate cancer.
      • by blueZ3 ( 744446 )

        Logan's Run...

    • There's nothing to worry about unless your name is Sarah Connor.

  • Bender? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Jeremiah Cornelius ( 137 ) * on Sunday October 12, 2008 @02:08AM (#25343941) Homepage Journal

    They found you a job?

  • Why? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Why do all the robots get to cop a feel?
  • I suppose the robot injection to kill the tumor/cancer will be regarded as the money shot?
  • by pembo13 ( 770295 ) on Sunday October 12, 2008 @02:30AM (#25343991) Homepage
    If something is promising, can't the process be accelerated (not rushed)? Get a team together to build a better prototype, at the same time have another team build some bio models to test the tool on. That part might take three to five months. While they are doing that, a third team could start lining potentials up for clinical trial. Another eight or so months doing daily trials and refinements. Basically, my ignorance of the field doesn't allow me to understand why it takes more than a year to get something promising into practice (if it ends up actually working).
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I think the trick is to do it outside the USA, where FDA need not apply. The catch then being that the money isn't there to develop it....

      Guess it depends if the goal is to a) get it out there and help people, or b) get paid to R&D shit (and oogle womens breasts, in this instance).

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Are you saying that the money to do this doesn't exist outside the US? That's complete and utter BS, not to mention very arrogant. Besides, if you intend to eventually sell a device like this in the US, you must still follow FDA rules and regulations during product development, clinical trials, etc; regardless if you are actually developing it inside the US or not. Not doing so would almost automatically exclude you from selling it in the US.

        In regards to the comments on speeding it up, obviously you do not

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by dbIII ( 701233 )
        You getting a little bit confused by a scam that is getting played on the mainly American medical market. As an example, when the cervical cancer vaccine was developed and fuly tested in Australia with Australian taxpayers money you still ended up with it being a lot more expensive in the USA with the usual excuse of R&D and FCC compliance costs. Guess what, US consumers pay more for it than anybody else in earth because in that case you are paying for what in that extreme case is completely mythical
        • by wisty ( 1335733 )
          Also, the FDA is able to rush out treatments for "compassionate" reasons, so they can treat some patients during the testing phases. This first happened with AZT (the first HIV med). The fact is, this robot just speeds up the treatment a bit, it's not some holy grail to cure cancer. It might help in the long run, but rushing out a buggy beta just isn't worth it.
        • US consumers pay more for these drugs because they can pay more and the drug-sellers know it and set their prices accordingly. (The idea is that these very high profits will lure more companies to do research and develop more and better drugs and that 20 years from now, when the patents all expire, we'll have more cool cheap drugs than we would if no one could charge that much.)
    • Money. Cutting edge medical research and technology is /not/ cheap, even when things are good. And now with all this talk of recessions and depressions, well...

    • What I want to know is, why publish a story about it now, if it won't be in existence for years to come? Someone with cancer right this minute could be reading the story as I type this, imagine how they must feel.
  • I volunteer as human pilot. can't trust computer these days.
    • My thoughts as well until I realized that breast cancer occurs more frequently in old saggy breasts than in young supple ones...
  • Curcumin,a spice found in turmeric, can help shut down a protein that plays a key role in the spread of cancers. []
  • I guess by now a number of people would bet that the robot will soon be starring in a sci-fi/horror movie, called something like, "Breast Fest '78".

  • I can't wait to see what happens when the machine finds silicone, pops it like a zit, finds a false positive (or a real positive near the implant), then sets the poor woman's chest on fire (or makes it explode)

  • This is probably the most tasteless thought that has ever popped into my head upon reading a slashdot article, but my first thought was an ED-209 [] style robot that would go around blowing womens breasts off. Sure, it's intention would be to do biopsies and only remove cancerous cells, but it would reason that if breasts were totally destroyed then they couldn't get cancer in the first place, and ED-209 was never the smartest of robots...

  • Is there anything they can't do?

  • Robocopafeel (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nameendingwith ( 1272536 ) on Sunday October 12, 2008 @09:35AM (#25345159)

    While "roboticcopafeel" does sound like that latest toy that all parents should go out and buy for their children, I suggest "robocopafeel" would be a much better pun. In fact, aren't they making that into the next Robocop movie?

  • (Insert tube.)

  • So all these alien anal probing is really just alien robot practicing removal of colorectal cancer!
  • The adoption of the DaVinci surgical robot. Right now they're all human controlled but I can see a point in the near term future where AI could be used in such robots.

    All the pieces are or will soon be in place. We've got the advance scanning technology, and the robotics.

    The same thing is happening with cars. They've gotten pretty advanced, some are even truly drive by wire. GPS is also evolving too. The biggest issue is coordinating maps with the lat/long coordinates.

    And the DARPA Grand Challenges
  • ... you have 20 seconds to comply.

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