A new bioengineering project in the UK will explore new ways to treat secondary bone tumors often associated with stage 4 cancers where the disease spreads to the spine.
Known as metastatic bone disease, the tumors spread from primary cancers elsewhere in the body, and the condition is strongly associated with breast cancer. The tumors can affect vertebrae, causing them to weaken and fracture, causing patients severe pain. However, in many cases quality of life is paramount for the patient, with major surgery not being an appropriate option.
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The collaboration, with the University of Leeds, Imperial College London and UCL, will develop an alternative treatment based on the development of novel imaging and modeling techniques that will allow clinicians to predict which patients are at high risk for vertebral fracture. Using minimally invasive surgery, patients can then be fitted with custom implants to prevent spinal fractures.
“The problem doctors face is that they don’t know which of the spinal vertebrae is going to fail,” explains study leader Professor Richard Hall, an expert in medical technology at the University of Leeds. “But when that happens, patients may need major surgery, which involves a long rehabilitation period.
“Our approach is to intervene by developing new techniques and equipment that will prevent vertebral fractures, which is critical to maintaining a patient’s quality of life at a time when they are terminally ill.”
titled Oncological engineering: a new concept in the treatment of bone metastasesthe project has attracted £7 million in research funding, including a £5.6 million grant from the Research Council Technical and Physical Sciences (EPSR). Within five years, the research team hopes to have developed new techniques and materials that will revolutionize the treatment of bone metastases.
“This funding will allow us to significantly expand our work by combining computational modeling with advanced imaging to better understand how cancers grow and interact with surrounding tissues,” said co-investigator Professor Rebecca Shipley of UCL’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. .
“We are excited to use these multidisciplinary frameworks to understand the risk of vertebral fractures and ultimately help improve the quality of life of cancer patients.”