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Cancer Treatment Technology Among Purdue Innovations

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Businesses in the region got a sneak peek at the newest technologies from Purdue University West Lafayette.  Eric Ward, a 2015 PhD candidate, came up with his industrial hygiene invention after completing internships with Subaru of Indiana Automotive, Inc. and General Electric.  Ward was the only student presenter at the Purdue Technology Road Show held at the Technology Center in Merrillville.  He said during the summer of 2012, he helped staff members in the non-union Subaru plant complete environment tests, which were important because running cars can produce carbon monoxide.  He said industrial hygiene tests were also done at GE.  During those internships, Ward said he realized the workers thought sampling was grueling.

“Everyone is kind of resistant to the sampling procedure due to the old methods of being clipped up with pumps.   They’re trying to do their job on a daily basis and here you come and you’re adding two extra pounds.   Some people are ok with it, but a large part of them don’t like it,” said Ward.

The sampling pumps, typically worn around the worker’s waist, offer shorter tubing that conflicts with different body types.  If the equipment fits, affixing tape to the body to attach excess tubing can be difficult when temperatures are warmer and dangerous if caught in industrial equipment.  Ward said he decided to create a vest with multiple pockets to evenly distribute weight while tracking for chemicals like carbon monoxide.

“The whole point of sampling is to get an accurate average concentration for an eight hour shift.  This is what all the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulations and standards are based on.  If you take it off during your shift or you contaminate the sample you’re going to bias the sample.  You get a biased sample you can’t make an accurate judgment call on whether you need to control the environment through ventilation, maybe change the work shifts up a little bit or put them in a respirator,” Ward said.

Health statistics show doctors will diagnose more than one million people with cancer this year.  That alarming rate led Electrical Engineering Professor Babak Ziaie to create radiation cancer therapy wireless tracking.  Zieia said a side effect to radiation is that it kills healthy cells.  So to limit that damage, a small transponder, about the size of a grain of rice, is put into a cancer tumor during the radiation therapy.  Ziazie said it can monitor the tumor motion during patient therapy.

“It’s very similar to trying target a moving vehicle, such as targeting an airplane with an anti-aircraft missile.  So, you have to know where the airplane is to move your weapon, move your machine gun.  Our machine gun, in this case, is the radiation coming to the tumor and our airplane in this case is the tumor” said Zieia.

Zieia said wired systems penetrate the patient’s skin, causing infection.  Wireless systems are on the market now, but use passive transponders. Purdue’s newest invention includes multiple transponders, which Zieia said are quicker and more accurate.

“By knowing exactly where the tumor is we can really direct the radiation beam to the tumor and salvage the health tissue, which is really the goal of radiation therapy.  [That goal is] to give as little dose to tumor and give nothing to healthy tissue around it,” said Zieia.

The road show will continue next month in Fort Wayne.

“We’re really looking at these events as an opportunity to build connections to start fostering relationships between the inventors of the technology, the professors and students of Purdue University, and those people in the local community with whole we might be able to partner to move those technologies closer towards reality in sale,” said Thomas Hutton, the Associate Director of Life Sciences for the Office of Technology Commercialization.

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