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This page was published on 30/08/2005
Published: 30/08/2005


Last Update: 30-08-2005  
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Information society  |  Health & life sciences


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Operating with surgical precision – guaranteed

German cancer surgeons have, for the first time, successfully removed a tumour with the aid of new 3-D computer modelling software which the designers say will make these operations safer and more accurate.

Removing tumours with surgical precision. © PhotoDisc
Removing tumours with surgical precision.
© PhotoDisc
Removing a cancerous tumour is a critical, if relatively routine, procedure. New software developed by computational molecular biologists at the German Cancer Research Centre (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum) promises, literally, to enhance the surgical precision of cancer-related medical interventions.

A team of surgeons at Heidelberg University Surgical Hospital have already used the new 3-D modelling program to remove a pancreatic tumour. “The more information one gets about a tumour, the better are the chances of successful surgery,” explains Markus Büchler who led the surgeons.

This is particularly true when it comes to the pancreas which is surrounded by a number of important organs and blood vessels. Prior to removing a tumour in the pancreas, surgeons need to know whether the growth is restricted to the pancreas or has spread to surrounding tissue. With the two-dimensional readings provided by conventional hospital equipment, this can prove tricky.

A new dimension in surgery
The new software – which was developed by a team of bioinformatics experts led by Hans-Peter Meinzer – brings a third dimension into the operating theatre. The program transforms two-dimensional Computed Tomography (CT) scans or Magnetic Resonance Therapy (MRT) data into 3-D representations. This image can be turned in all directions and illustrates organs and tumours, especially how they relate spatially with surrounding tissue.

The makers expect their software to help make cancer surgery safer and more accurate. “Further computer-assisted surgical operations will show whether the new method enables physicians to remove tumour tissue more safely and thoroughly and, thus, to better prevent complications and recurrences following surgery,” the developers said in a statement.

The European Union's Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) also supports cancer and bioinformatics research through its first thematic priority ‘Life sciences, genomics and biotechnology for health'. What's more, information and communications technologies – including software development – are a key focus under FP6's second thematic priority ‘Information society technologies' (IST).

German Cancer Research Centre

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