GMV’s research campus is applying robotics and precision medicine to take on the battle against oligometastatic cancer
GMV is the only Spanish firm among the 28 members making up the German research campus M²OLIE (Mannheim Molecular Intervention Environment), now in its tenth year of fostering collaboration between clinical and technological research and industry. A team of physicians, engineers, computer scientists, economists, and data scientists is working to push the boundaries of conventional medicine and accelerate the application of personalized and precision medicine in cancer treatment, with robotics and information technologies as allies.
Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, it aims to turn cancer into a chronic disease, and even in cases that currently have a poor prognosis, such as those with oligometastatic tumors, to provide patients with personalized, precise, and rapid treatments that provide a better patient experience.
The current treatment of patients with oligometastatic tumors—which occur when cancerous cells from the original tumor move around the body and form a small number of new tumors, or metastatic tumors, in one or two different parts of the body—offers ample room for improvement since it causes the majority of deaths from this disease. Not surprisingly, in patients with oligometastatic tumors, the primary tumor is approached with a good prognosis, but there are usually one to five progressive metastatic lesions in the liver and brain, which are mainly responsible for the death of patients with tumors (liver metastases are detected in 70 % of deaths and brain metastases in about 20 % of all patients with tumors). This fact more than justifies the purpose of the M²OLIE research campus, which is crossing the halfway point of its project, with funding for a further ten years of research.
The first phase of the research explored an individualized approach using electronic patient information, new image analysis techniques, and robots for biopsies and surgery. The aim is, among other things, to manage patients in a closed and integrated circuit that speeds up the time from admission to therapeutic intervention in just one day. Work has also been done on the molecular classification of tumors with mass spectrometry and organizing of tumor markers ad-hoc for therapeutic decisions. All of the above under the umbrella of three work packages: M²IBIDfor diagnostic and interventional imaging and molecular analysis; M²INT for automation and robotic-assisted biopsy and intervention; and M²DATA for the conceptual design of a data delivery process encompassing M²OLIE.
Increased accuracy in diagnostics and surgeries
Currently, most people with metastatic cancer only receive systemic therapy, a single treatment to destroy cancer cells anywhere in the body. However, the molecular characteristics of metastases may differ, even with respect to the primary tumor. Thus, among M²OLIE’s new approaches, one distinguishes the commitment to a treatment approach with different therapeutic targets, specific for each tumor. This requires innovative diagnostic methods be developed based on precise imaging and molecular analysis as well as robotic assistance in performing biopsies and surgical interventions.
As Carlos Illana, product manager of GMV’s Secure e-solutions, explained, in the specific case of the treatment of metastatic tumors, intraoperative radiotherapy techniques allow for the use of the double condensed treatment of surgical resection and radiotherapy to reduce tumor proliferation up to adjuvant treatment, achieving better preservation of organs at risk and reducing hospital treatment time, providing greater comfort and lower risk of infection for patients.
In the field of radiosurgical planning, GMV is therefore working on “technology that makes it possible to administer the high doses involved in intraoperative treatment with high precision and safety,” the company’s expert explained. Its contribution to tumor resection and dose administration is primarily in the field of navigation and surgical and radiotherapy planning. As Illana explained, “navigation and simulation applied in intraoperative procedures achieve greater precision in surgery and radiotherapy procedures.”
GMV has for years been a technological leader in projects of navigation, simulation, and image processing in intraoperative procedures, providing surgeons and radiation oncologists with tools for more precise work.
In the second M²OLIE funding period, the developments and research achieved in the first period will be integrated and implemented, incorporating them into a “closed-loop process” in which the experience and feedback acquired along the way is taken into consideration for continuous improvement, making it time- and cost-efficient, using automated processes. Until the end of the second funding period, this “closed-loop process” will be clinically evaluated in patients with tumors undergoing individualized, minimally invasive therapy of all metastases.
Director of the Clinic for Radiology and Nuclear Medicine at the University Medical Centre Mannheim; Carsten Hopf, Head of the Center for Mass Spectrometry and Optical Spectroscopy (CeMOS) at the Mannheim University of Applied Sciences; Frank Zöllner, Head of Medical Imaging (MRI, CT, X-Ray) and Image Analysis, Computer Assisted Clinical Medicine, Mannheim Institute for Intelligent Systems in Medicine at the University Medical Centre Mannheim and Jan Stallkamp, Director of the Mannheim Institute for Intelligent Systems in Medicine at the University Medical Centre Mannheim explain some key insights into the significance of the research being done at M²OLIE.