High-tech road map kills liver cancer

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More than 16,000 new cases of liver cancer are diagnosed each year. Surgery can help remove the tumors, but it is risky and can lead to serious complications. However, a new technology is giving doctors directions to help stop the disease.

"I thought actually it was a gall bladder problem," said liver cancer patient, Richie Ruben.

His problem ended up being a tumor. Surgery to remove it would be dangerous because of its location. However, Ruben was out of the hospital in two days and back to work in two weeks cancer free.

Dr. William Jarnigan of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center used an organ positioning system on Ruben. It is similar to a GPS, but 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," said Dr. Jarnagin.

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," said Dr. Michael Miga, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Vanderbilt.

The 3D 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," said Dr. Jarnagin.

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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