Laser thermotherapy technology co-developers receive Governor General’s Innovation Award

Mark Torchia, Associate Professor of Surgery in the College of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba (Winnipeg, MB, Canada), and Richard Tyc, P.Eng., Monteris Medical (Plymouth, MN)'s VP of Technology and Advanced Development, received the inaugural Governor General's Innovation Award in recognition of their AutoLITT laser interstitial thermal therapy (LITT) development. This technology gave rise to Monteris Medical's NeuroBlate laser thermotherapy device that enables minimally invasive robotic treatment of a variety of neurosurgery indications.

Related: Real-time interactivity enhances interstitial brain tumor therapy

The Governor General's Innovation Awards celebrate outstanding Canadian individuals, teams, and organizations who contribute to Canada's success, shape the country's future, and inspire the next generation of creators and trailblazers. Award recipients were identified through a two-stage, merit-based selection process managed by the Canada Foundation for Innovation. Torchia and Tyc will receive their award at a ceremony taking place at Rideau Hall (Ottawa, ON, Canada) on May 19, 2016.

Torchia and Tyc developed AutoLITT as a minimally invasive alternative to open brain surgery that could allow surgeons to effectively target brain lesions while minimizing patients' pain and recovery time. Although laser-based methods were already in use for neurological conditions at the time they began their work, these approaches did not give surgeons adequate control to precisely target specific brain lesions. In 1990, while working at St. Boniface General Hospital in Winnipeg, Torchia developed the first NeuroBlate prototype. Tyc joined him in 1999 to advance and commercialize the technology—together, they founded Monteris Medical.

The NeuroBlate system combines magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computer visualization to allow surgeons to remotely destroy and coagulate lesions at multiple locations in the brain, at the surface or deep inside, with the aid of sophisticated computer software. During a procedure, a surgeon makes a small hole in the skull, approximately as wide as a pencil, and precisely guides a laser probe via an MRI-compatible robotic driver to apply controlled amounts of heat until the targeted tissue is destroyed.

In traditional brain operations, MRI is used after the surgery to determine if the lesion had been removed. With NeuroBlate, however, MRI visualization is used throughout the procedure, which enables real-time surgical decision-making. The system also allows surgeons to reach tumors that are difficult to access with standard surgery or were previously considered inoperable.

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