Primary liver cancer claims one million deaths per year worldwide, and secondary liver cancer caused by metastases spreading to the liver adds a significant number of fatalities to that toll. Despite this high disease burden, only 10-20% of patients with either type of cancer qualify for surgery, the only treatment known to be a chance for cure.
New forms of chemotherapy are available, but they can only incrementally increase survival and they come at high individual treatment costs. The use of innovative surgical and interventional therapies would permit clinicians to treat and even cure liver cancer patients that don’t suit surgery and have little or no other treatment options. These new interventions physically destroy the tumor by heat treating it, freezing it off or bursting it, using a needle/probe that delivers microwave, radiofrequency, cryogenic cooling or a puncturing electric field into the cancer tissue and eradicating it on site. With this approach there is no need for open liver surgery and the stereotactic image guidance akin to “GPS” tracks the position, movement and behavior of the needle on a screen. The advantage is twofold: much of the healthy tissue lost by removing parts of the liver surgically remains intact and patients that do not qualify for surgery can qualify for this treatment, giving hope to currently “uncurable” patients.
The group led by the Chair for Image Guided Therapy Prof. Dr. – Ing. Stefan Weber at the ARTORG Center has carried out research at the forefront of imaging, surgical planning and guidance technology to introduce new and efficacious treatment options for liver cancer. The research effort included multi-center clinical trials to generate clinical data and evidence of better outcomes from interventions using the planning and guidance technology.
In keeping with the translational mandate of projects at the ARTORG Center, this liver cancer surgical technology has been translated with the help of a spin-off company CAScination AG (CAScination). CAScination has successfully commercialized the technology into a product: CAS-One IR®. CAS-One IR® has regulatory approval and is being used in a number of hospitals, benefitting patients every day.