One of the methods used to treat a tumor is to focus ultrasound waves to heat cancer cells to 60C - destroying them and leaving healthy tissue largely unharmed.
But to use the technique to treat liver tumors presents a major problem because the organ shifts back and forth during breathing. This increases the risk that the ultrasound beam path misses the cancer cells and instead heats the surrounding healthy tissue too strongly.
For this reason, researchers have only applied this method to patients under general anesthesia. To treat a tumor with ultrasound, a medical ventilator is paused for a few seconds so that the patient remains absolutely still.
To solve this problem, European researchers working on the so-called FUSIMO (Focused UltraSound In Moving Organs) project are developing a system that tracks the movement of the liver during surgery using MRI data and then applies the beam of ultrasound at the appropriate time to treat tumors in it.
In principle, the procedure could be applied to other abdominal organs that move with breathing and which are difficult to target with the ultrasound beam path such as the stomach, kidneys, and duodenum.
The FUSIMO project began in 2011 and has been funded for three years with 4.7m Euros. Eleven institutions from nine countries are involved. The project is coordinated by the Fraunhofer Institute for Medical Image Computing MEVIS (Bremen, Germany).
More details can be found on the FUSIMO web site here.
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-- Dave Wilson, Senior Editor, Vision Systems Design