Introduction to Bioengineering from Professor Alan Murray
From Billy Rosendale
Alan Murray: Sensors in tumours
In this video Alan describes IMPACT and how the project will use
miniaturised, wireless sensor chips the size of a grass seed to monitor
the status of an individual tumour, to target radiotherapy in space and
time and damage cancer cells as much as possible.
This video highlights a project called IMPACT (Implantable Microsystems for Personalised Anti-Cancer Therapy). It’s a 5-year, £5.2M project involving all three of this University’s Colleges and is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). IMPACT’s team includes Engineers, Chemists, Clinicians, Veterinary Clinicians and Social Scientists.
This project was suggested about 5 years ago by Ian Kunkler, who is a clinician on the IMPACT team. Ian is an Edinburgh-based oncologist who specialises in treating breast cancer and researching that treatment. Ian observed that the accuracy of the most up-to-date radiotherapy equipment, for example the machine known as the Cyberknife, allows the radiation to be concentred on a volume, inside a tumour, the size of a pea. The problem is that we do not have the knowledge to know exactly where to direct that therapy and exactly when to use it. So – radiotherapy is delivered to a larger volume on a regular schedule. In fact, tumours have times and places when they are variously radiotherapy resistant and vulnerable to therapy.
We are developing sensor chips, roughly the size of a grain of wild rice, that will sit inside the tumour. They will be inserted using a needle similar to that used to put an identification chip in a cat or dog. The chips will tell us where and when the tumour is most vulnerable to radiotherapy and where there are areas that need an extra dose of therapy. In a very real sense the tumour will tell the oncologist when and where to hit it to do the most damage. The chips will also tell us how effective the therapy has been in killing cancer cells.
As a result, radiotherapy will be more effective, overall doses will be smaller and damage to healthy tissue will be reduced. There will, however, be implications for the NHS, as radiotherapy will be best delivered at the tumour’s “inconvenience”, and that does not follow a regular schedule. In the end, the aim is to save lives. We are delighted that we have the funding and people – all in Edinburgh – to try to do that by bringing specialists in several very different fields together. That form of interdisciplinary work is where some of the most interesting and important research challenges lie.
Find out more:
- IMPACT website: http://www.impact.eng.ed.ac.uk
- Institute for Bioengineering, School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh: http://www.eng.ed.ac.uk/research/institute/ibioe
- Professor Alan Murray on Edinburgh Research Explorer: http://www.research.ed.ac.uk/portal/afm
- Professor Alan Murray, School of Engineering profile: http://www.eng.ed.ac.uk/about/people/prof-alan-murray