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NU-RISE: Closing the Loop on Cancer Radiation Therapy

Cancer, the second leading cause of human death, directly impacts over 19 million people every year including the friends and loved ones of those diagnosed with the disease. Treatments for cancer, generally surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, extract a tremendous toll on those being treated, often with adverse side effects. NU-RISE, an innovative company in Portugal, aims to radically change cancer treatment. With groundbreaking sensors and real-time feedback, NU-RISE’s solution brings precision and control to the radiation treatment process.

Radiation therapy is one of the most common weapons against cancer. Used to treat multiple forms of the disease, radiation may be applied broadly, as with external beam radiation therapy (EBRT), and in a targeted fashion, as with brachytherapy. In EBRT, patients receive a beam or number of beams of radiation applied externally and targeted at their cancer. In brachytherapy, rods of radiation travel down a catheter in the patient’s body and irradiate a specific point for a specific amount of time. In either case, the radiation treatment process lends itself to errors. The open loop nature of the process means that doctors do not know the exact amount of radiation delivered to a specific spot, ideally the cancerous tumor. Increasing dosage, to be certain the cancer receives enough radiation, increases the potential for harmful side effects by possibly irradiating healthy tissue. Furthermore, the process is prone to human error as well, such as mistargeted catheters.

NU-RISE’s unique innovation closes the loop during radiation treatment by providing precise, real time measurement of radiation at the site of the tumor. Positioning sensors on probes immediately by the tumor, NU-RISE’s equipment precisely measures radiation amounts and directly feeds the signals back to the system software. The immediate feedback allows technicians and doctors to detect errors, such as patient setup flaws or mistargeted radiation, in real time. More importantly, the sensors and the information they provide, enable doctors to treat more precisely, improving treatment efficacy and patient safety. In addition, hypofractioning, a higher radiation treatment plan, demands a safety level that is only guaranteed by the NU-RISE dose tracking solution. This allows patients to receive fewer, higher dose treatment sessions, reducing the number of treatments by up to 70%, with equivalent or greater effectiveness.

Challenges

  • Evaluate hospital workflow to revolutionize the cancer treatment process
  • Build cost effective radiation detection probes with the accuracy and precision required for closed loop radiation measurement
  • Provide performance equipment and a model for an effective treatment process

Solutions

Benefits

  • Improved radiation treatment effectiveness
  • Reduction of treatment sessions
  • Elimination of errors during radiation
  • Protection of patients from unnecessary radiation

xylon-logirecorder-board.png Rafael, a NU-RISE collaborator and electronics engineer, sets up the system for testing.

atec-inc-switch2.png The NU-RISE system hardware.

Challenges

NU-RISE’s products consist of a single optical fiber with a scintillator at the patient’s end, which converts radiation into light. The disposable fibers cost a fraction of current solutions, making NU-RISE’s products attractive to the medical community. At the system end, extensive signal processing electronics convert the light into usable signals for feedback and analysis. “The concept is easy, the instrumentation is a nightmare,” says Luís Moutihno, NU-RISE’s founder and chief technologist. The vast technical challenges relate to signal integrity and stability. A single optical module gets irradiated in the process, and thus carries significant noise. Further, each signal and the entire system require tremendous stability to maintain precision. Creating such stability requires system level cooling for thermal control, channel-to-channel separation to reduce noise, and an array of instrumentation and signal processing techniques to make the entire system work well.

Solution and Benefits

A medical device startup like NU-RISE works in close collaboration with hospitals so transitions from the lab to the clinical setup can be done quickly. Hardware design, prototyping, and piloting stages are crucial for success. When running tests with patients, essential for product development, there is no margin for error. “Maxim always provides us the needed tools for fast lab testing and straightforward adoption of new parts into our designs,” commented Moutinho. “Performance is superb and the datasheets are accurate. What we expect to happen, actually happens.”

As NU-RISE moves through qualification and into the medical market, they bring tremendous potential for quicker, more effective treatment and saving lives. In addition, NU-RISE analyzes the entire treatment process in order to eliminate errors and improve the patient experience. Cancer treatments will never be the same. Maxim is proud to partner with such an innovative company in the business of serving people.