Japanese researchers are harnessing robotics technology to automate a safe and minimally invasive treatment for breast cancer.

This robotic system is designed to help surgeons insert a radio frequency ablation needle into a breast tumour as demonstrated on this goat. Image: Fujie Lab, Waseda University

Researchers at Waseda University’s Fujie Lab, in cooperation with Kyushu University and Tohoku University, are building a robotic surgical assistant that uses radiofrequency ablation to kill breast cancer cells. A popular method for treating liver cancer, this technology involves cauterizing cancer cells using radio waves emitted from the tip of an inserted needle.

The robot’s role will be to locate and quantify breast cancer cells, and then to accurately control a needle that pierces and cauterizes those cells.

“The robot is intended as an assistive device for the surgeon, who will make decisions on the course and execution of medical treatment,” explains the research team leader, Professor Masakatsu Fujie.

The researchers’ first step is to ensure their robot can accurately insert a radio frequency ablation needle into a breast cancer tumour. Since breast tissue is soft, it can easily deform when a needle pierces it, thus displacing the tumour. “Therefore, we are developing a preloading probe for accurate needle insertion,” says Professor Yo Kobayashi.

The team’s next steps are to develop an intraoperative estimation and control method, and to improve the safety and reliability of these technologies. “Based on progress with our technology last year, we plan to perform a field study in 2014 to collect data for future clinical application,” says Professor Fujie.



For further information contact:

Fujie Laboratory
Faculty of Science and Engineering
Waseda University, Japan
Email: mgfujie@waseda.jp