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Breast Cancer Smart Probe

Breast Cancer
Smart Probe

3D Visualization Interface

3D Visualization Interface

Smart Probe Testbed

Smart Probe Testbed

Development of Smart Probe technology that makes use of neural networks and intelligent software with the most advanced physiologic sensors to provide real-time breast tissue characterization for diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of breast cancer, including determination of tumor microenvironment and evaluation of tumor margins. The software solutions and tools from this medical application will lead to the development of better real-time minimally invasive Smart Probes for 1) space biology research and 2) medical care and treatment on long space flights.

The smart probe device is being designed to 'see' a suspicious lump in a breast, determine by its features if it is cancerous, and ultimately predict how the disease may progress. Surgeons may soon be able to insert the computerized tool's needle-like tip into breast lumps to make instant diagnoses and long-term cancer predictions. This device will provide real-time detailed interpretations of breast tissue at the needle’s tip. The breast cancer smart probe may allow health care providers to make expert, accurate diagnoses as well as to suggest proper individualized treatment, even in remote areas.

This project was created in response to a NASA Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Women's Health, to transfer NASA technology for the fight against women's diseases. We are collaborating with Dr. Stefanie S. Jeffrey, Chief of Breast Surgery, Stanford University School of Medicine, to develop our Smart Probe technology for breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.


Information Technology being developed by NASA to assist astronaut/physicians in responding to emergencies during long space flights will be employed for the improvement of women’s health in the form of “smart” medical tools. This technology, initially developed for neurosurgery applications, has enormous potential for the diagnoses and treatment of breast cancer.

A joint research project between NASA Ames and Stanford University will develop a Smart Probe to identify physiologic differences between benign and malignant breast tissue.

Risk of breast cancer is a significant women’s health issue:

@ age 25 - 1 in 20,000
@ age 50 - 1 in 51
@ age 85 - 1 in 9

We hope to use this device not only to detect cancer, but also to understand the nature of an individual cancer. Information about the tissue’s microenvironment may help us determine the distinctive features of a malignancy and how the disease may progress; more knowledge about the cancer may guide us to better individualizing treatment. To enable the device to recognize cancer and predict its progress, we use hybrid soft computing software that is trained and learns from experience. An ultrasound sensor is used to guide the probe’s insertion into a breast lump. The technologies employed in this application can potentially be used to diagnose and treat cancers found in other parts of the body, such as the prostate and colon.

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