Space technology in new technique to fight breast cancer

Dutch entrepreneur Hugo Brunsveld van Hulten has come up with a solution to help physicians in their fight against breast cancer that combines two techniques: magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to locate and diagnose cancerous tissue and high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) to 'burn' malignant cells.

This invention, named ActiveFU, is being developed by Brunsveld van Hulten at the new European Space Incubator (ESI) facility at ESTEC, ESA's European Space Research and Test Centre in the Netherlands. By using space technologies and expertise from ESA's space research teams several challenges have already been overcome.

"HIFU is a proven intervention technique for the ablation of cancer cells in the human body," explains Brunsveld van Hulten. "This technique combined with the recent advances in MRI capabilities that can provide a proper real-time view of the area during treatment, will give the ActiveFU operator highly-sophisticated control of the hyper-thermal tumour-targeting procedure".

This innovative system will offer cancer patients a new non-invasive treatment option that is more patient-friendly and without the negative side effects associated with chemo and radiation therapies.

"Benefits will also include savings to the public health care sector because it is an outpatient treatment," adds Brunsveld van Hulten.

Originally a mathematician, Brunsveld van Hulten started working in remote sensing but since the early nineties he has been involved in the use of MRI to carry out biopsies for breast cancer and in studying the use of ultrasound for medical treatment.

"I got the idea when I looked into the MRI market, which today is still limited to diagnostics. I could see that the logical next step for the use of MRI would be for interventional therapy," explains Brunsveld van Hulten. "I came to the conclusion that the use of a dedicated HIFU system with a quality imaging MRI-breast-coil - the device that actually g

Contact: Elaine Tan
European Space Agency

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