New technology making road maps for doctors to take out liver cancer

There are 16,000 new cases of liver cancer diagnosed each year. Surgery can help remove the tumors, but it's risky and can lead to serious complications.

Now a new technology is giving doctors directions to help kill a killer.

Richie Ruben has a passion for all things sports, and he keeps it where he can see it. But what he didn't see coming was liver cancer.

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

It was a tumor. Surgery to remove it would be dangerous because of its location. So Doctor William Jarnigan of Memorial Sloan-Kettering used an organ positioning system. Similar to a GPS, 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," describes William R. Jarnagin, MD, FACS, Chief of the Hepatopancreatobiliary Service Director at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

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," says Dr. Michael Miga Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering Co-founder of the Vanderbilt initiative in Surgery and Engineering at Vanderbilt University.

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," says Dr. Jarnagin.

Richie was out of the hospital in two days and back to work in two weeks cancer free.

A home run for this sports fan whose only dream is to be were he loves to be.

"Back at the ball park, back at the Yankees game," says Ruben.

The OPS is currently being tested in hospitals across the U.S. Doctor 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.


REPORT: MB # 3488

BACKGROUND: The percentage of Americans that develop liver cancer has been slowly rising for several decades. Liver cancer is more common in men than women, though it is rare in the US in both groups. More than 90% of people diagnosed with liver cancer are older than 45 years of age, and the average age for diagnosis is 63 years old. Around 3% are between 35 and 44 years old and less than 3% are younger than 35.
This cancer is substantially more common in countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia than in the United States. It is the most common type of cancer in many of these countries. Liver cancer is diagnosed in more than 700,000 people worldwide as a leading cause of cancer deaths, accounting for more than 600,000 deaths each year. (Source:
Hepatocellular Carcinoma: most common type of liver cancer where cancer cells form in liver tissue. It affects an estimated 24,000 people in the US each year.

Cholangiocarcinoma (Bile Duct Cancer): a rare cancer which occurs in ducts that drain bile from the liver to the small intestine. Every year, 2,000 to 3,000 people are diagnosed in the US.
Liver Metastasis: Cancer that starts in another part of the body and spreads to the liver. The most common cancers to spread to the liver are colorectal cancers, gastrointestinal cancers, and melanoma. (Source:
TREATMENT: There are many different options to treat liver cancer, depending on what stage you are in. Treatment options include surgery to remove a portion of the liver, a liver transplant, freezing cancer cells, heating cancer cells, injecting alcohol into the tumor, injecting chemotherapy drugs into the liver, radiation therapy, and targeted drug therapy. (Source:


The goal of creating this system was to develop a laparoscopic method for three-dimensional localization of tissue and organ surfaces during minimally-invasive, image-guided surgery. It would hopefully bring the benefits of image-guided surgery to abdominal laparoscopic procedures. The system has the potential to track tissue movement in real time and to measure the shape of visible anatomic structures via rapid localization of large numbers of surface points. Localization can be performed at sufficiently high data rates to track tissue motion due to respiration, guide coregistration with preoperative anatomic image sets, and provide the constraints required by deformable tissue models. The system was designed around conventional laparoscopes so image guidance can be provided with very little change to normal clinical procedures. (Source:

Bottom of Form

Craig Boerner
National News Director
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
(615) 322-4747

Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
powered by Disqus
WNDU - Channel 16 54516 State Road 933 South Bend, IN 46637 Front Desk: 574-284-3000 Newsroom: 574-284-3016 Email:
Copyright © 2002-2014 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 162110635 -
Gray Television, Inc.