Updated on 18 September 2012
Dr K S Clifford Chao, chair of Radiation Oncology at Columbia University's Medical Center. Courtsey: www.techventures.columbia.edu
Singapore: A US-based Taiwanese oncologist has developed a high precision robotic image-guided therapy system, Arc-Knife, that helps map the exact location of a tumor and direct radiation towards the malignant cells while avoiding healthy tissue.
Dr K S Clifford Chao, chair of Radiation Oncology at Columbia University's Medical Center, says he was inspired to develop this system to make cancer care simpler, more affordable and effective for patients.
The Columbia University website quotes Dr Chao as saying, "Today's cancer treatment technology is like a Swiss Army knife, packed with tools and techniques that most patients don't actually need. If you just want to cut a piece of cake, for example, all you need is a knife. Why pay for the rest of the tools?"
The system that he developed is more precise and safe than existing radiation machines. The Arc-Knife technology is ideal for cancers of the brain, lung or breast, which comprise nearly 40 percent of all cancer patients that undergo radiation therapy. Traditional radiation therapy use high-energy X-rays, 100 times as powerful as the kind used in medical diagnostics. While these penetrating rays are useful in treating deep tumors, like prostrate cancer, hospitals need bunker-like rooms to entrap the radiation, which is both time consuming and costly.
Dr Chao's Arc-Knife machine has a built-in shield, which can be used in the medical office space and costs less. It is also possible to image the tumor on the same day as treatment, unlike traditional systems.
Dr Chao also serves as the Chair of Radiation Oncology at New York's Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical College. He came to New York from the University of Texas M D Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.