Engineering Minute

Engineering Minute – Low-Cost Breast Cancer Treatment

Engineers at John Hopkins University have developed a cryoablation probe as a low-cost alternative breast cancer treatment for use in developing countries. The probe uses widely available carbon dioxide to expose cancerous tissue to extremely cold temperatures, killing it in the process. The team's research was published recently in the journal PLOS one


"When we started the project, experts in the area told us it was impossible to ablate meaningful tissue volumes with carbon dioxide," says senior author Nicholas Durr, an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. "This mindset may have come from both the momentum of the field and also from not thinking about the importance of driving down the cost of this treatment."



From the John Hopkins University article: "The research team tested its tool in three experiments to ensure it could remain cold enough in conditions similar to the human breast and successfully kill tumor tissue.

In the first experiment, the team used the tool on jars of ultrasound gel, which thermodynamically mimics human breast tissue, to determine whether it could successfully reach standard freezing temperatures to kill tissue and form consistent ice balls. In all trials, the device formed large enough ice balls and reached temperatures below 40 degrees below zero Celsius, which meets standard freezing temperatures for tissue death for similar devices in the United States.

For the second experiment, the team treated rats with mammary tumors. Afterwards, team members looked at the tissue under a microscope and confirmed that the tool successfully killed 85% or more tissue for all tumors. In a third animal experiment, the device was shown to be capable of staying cold enough during the entire experiment to kill the target tissue."


Read more about the low-cost breast cancer treatment at John Hopkins University.


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