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.
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.
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.
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.