New Technology to save Cancer Patients’ Lives

Small sensors on the bodies of cancer patients who have recently undergone surgery aim to ensure timely response to complications. The technology is being jointly developed by DTU and Capital Region of Denmark, and has just received a large grant from the Danish Cancer Society.

Cancer Patients

When a patient has undergone surgery for abdominal cancer, there is a high risk of subsequent complications. One third of recently operated patients experience serious complications, several of which prove fatal. A number of small sensors attached to the body aim to help doctors more quickly detect these complications, so they can be addressed before the patient suffers injury.

“Unfortunately, there is currently a very high risk associated with surgery for abdominal cancer. A type of cancer we are seeing increasingly often. If we can reduce this risk, it will be a major step towards ensuring better and more effective treatment. The new technology offers huge potential, and we are eager to get started,” says Eske Aasvang, DMSc, Staff Specialist at Rigshospitalet.

“Although hospitals monitor vital signs such as pulse, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation, we know that a patient’s condition can quickly deteriorate without the staff noticing. A wide range of serious complications can also arise in the cardiovascular system without the newly operated patient feeling any symptoms. Close monitoring may therefore prove highly beneficial,” explains Dr Christian S. Meyhoff, PhD, Research Leader at Bispebjerg Hospital.

New computer algorithm enabling timely intervention

It is currently normal for vital signs to be measured every 12 hours, but the new technology makes it possible to constantly monitor all vital functions. With the right biomedical computer algorithm, early detection of changes to these functions is possible, and an alarm can be sent to hospital staff so the complication can be avoided.

“Over the coming four years, we will be working to develop a new method on the basis of data from 400 patients who have undergone a cancer operation. The collected measurements will be analysed and compared with the serious post-surgery complications in some patients. This analysis will help us understand what signals our body transmits, before any complications arise. We will then use these signals to develop a clinical support system in the form of computer algorithms for 24/7 monitoring, to make it possible to automatically alert healthcare staff while a problem is still in the early stages. This will allow action to be taken to prevent serious complications from developing,” explains Helge Bjarup Dissing Sørensen, associate professor at DTU Electrical Engineering.

The research is being carried out by Dr Christian S. Meyhoff from Bispebjerg Hospital and Dr Eske Aasvang from Rigshospitalet, with supervision by two of Denmark‘s leading professors in cancer surgery, Lars Peter Nannestad Jørgensen and Lars Bo Svendsen. The project aims to considerably reduce the risks associated with abdominal cancer surgery.

“In the long term, the aim is to also apply the new method to other types of patients that undergo complicated operations,” concludes Helge Bjarup Dissing Sørensen.