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    A Russian scientific research center's work on the 'OnkoRobot', a new robot designed to assist in the surgical treatment of prostate cancer, has advanced to the pre-prototype stage, with the first fully-functional prototype expected to be created by next year.

    The OncoRobot (a combination of the Russian words Oncologia ('Oncology') and Robot) is designed to assist with brachytherapy, which involves the insertion of radioactive implants directly into patient tissue to treat prostate cancer. 

    The system is the brainchild of the St. Petersburg-based Russian State Scientific Center for Robotics and Technical Cybernetics, one of Russia's leading scientific centers.

    OncoRobot project head Nikolai Gryaznov told Russia's Izvestia newspaper that the project, which has already garnered interest from specialized medical institutions, is expected to enter the prototype stage before the end of 2018, with testing expected to be completed by the fourth quarter of 2019.

    Commenting on the special usefulness of the OncoRobot, Gryaznov explained that the system will allow for precise, real-time control of the movements of surgical instruments with the assistance of an intratissual visualization based on ultrasound.

    Mounted either on a mobile platform, or on brackets fixed to the ceiling, the OncoRobot includes a manipulator mechanism with six degrees of motion, a device for controlling the movement of the needle as it enters the patient's soft tissue, and an onboard ultrasound imaging system. 

    OncoRobot design concept
    OncoRobot design concept

    Working with the assistance of a personal computer, the OncoRobot is being designed to operate in manual, semi-automatic and automatic mode.

    The Russian Ministry of Education has provided financial support for the project, citing the importance of increasing the efficiency of cancer treatment, as well as the safety for medical staff. The OncoRobot will allow doctors to avoid being present near sources of radiation for long periods of time.

    The Tula-based Splav State Research and Production Association is also seen as a prospective partner to the Scientific Center on the project. A representative of that company told Izvestia that Splav had already helped in the creation of the robotic system to inject the radioactive microsources into tumor tissue.

    In the context of sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States, Europe, and other countries, the OncoRobot is expected to become Russia's domestic alternative to Western brachytherapy systems. The import of medical equipment for brachytherapy treatment currently runs Russian hospitals anywhere from 40-50 million rubles ($671,500-$839,000 US), and the Center for Robotics expects the price of the OncoRobot to be significantly lower than its Western analogues.

    According to developers, potential customers have already expressed an interest in the Onkorobot. They include the National Medical Research Radiology Center of the Russian Ministry of Health, the N.N. Petrov Research Institute of Oncology, and L.G. Sokolov Memorial Hospital No. 122. The Center for Robotics reached an agreement with the National Medical Research Radiology Center on cooperation in the creation of high-tech medical products in April.

    The Center for Robotics is one of Russia's largest scientific centers, specializing in the design and development of robotics, special instrument engineering, information management systems, information security and advanced space technologies.


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