Since April 1st, Stefanie Speidel has been Professor for "Translational Surgical Oncology" at the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Dresden. The computer scientist develops intelligent assistance systems for the operating room, which are intended to reliably guide surgeons to their destinations during minimally invasive procedures/surgeries. That way, especially tumor operations in the abdominal area could become more precise and less risky in the future. Speidel is the first professor to be funded by NCT Dresden. Four more NCT professors are to be appointed this and next year.
The National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Dresden is jointly run by the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), the Medical Faculty Carl Gustav Carus of the Technical University of Dresden, the University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus Dresden, and the Helmholtz Center Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR).
Enter address, press OK, start driving. In the car, we naturally rely on our navigation system when setting off for new destinations. The future in the operating room could look quite similar: Intelligent assistance systems guide the surgeon reliably and without detours to the tumor. To this end, NCT Professor Stefanie Speidel (38) develops highly complex and practical solutions: "However, today as in the future, it’s the surgeons who bear responsibility and decide what to do during surgery. We, by contrast, provide them with intelligent tools for their work", Speidel explains.
Such intelligent tools are especially needed for minimally invasivesurgeries. Here, the surgeon makes a small incision in the patient's skin and controls the surgery via endoscopic video images. Together with her team, Speidel works on a navigation system that displays additional information in the two-dimensional video images: such as the three-dimensional representation of the body regions where surgery is to be carried out, or of the vessels that must not be injured. Depending on the context of the surgery and the patient, further information is added. If, for example, the surgeon reaches for a sharp instrument, the system recognizes the intention of further advancing to the tumor and additionally inserts the optimal incision and exact location of the tumor.
Moving surfaces complicate navigation
In neurosurgery and orthopedics where relatively stable structures are operated, comparable systems are already in use today. By contrast, the development of such navigation systems for soft parts, for example those in the abdomen, is novel and particularly difficult. Due to respiration, heartbeat, or the contact with medical instruments, the position and shape of tissues and organs can always change. "We need to analyze and map those changes in real-time, comparable to a modified driving position. A system that merely feeds back: 'You should have turned right 300 meters earlier'– to maintain the car comparison – is of no use for us,” Speidel says.
For that purpose, Speidel combines image and sensor data being obtained before and during surgery with biomechanical models, and develops new programs that can use this information to directly calculate surface changes. According to Prof. Jürgen Weitz, Director of the Clinic for Visceral, Thoracic and Vascular Surgery at the University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus Dresden, and one of the Managing Directors at NCT Dresden "Such computerized systems are very important for the future of surgery. They enable us to perform operations more precisely and remove the entire tumor with a greater degree of certainty. Moreover, such systems could allow for the surgical treatment of more difficult cases than hitherto."
Advanced and virtual realities for the patient’s benefit
Besides the reality overlap due to additional information, which is called augmented reality, Speidel concentrates on innovative solutions in the field of virtual reality. Here, computers create a three-dimensional environment which the user can interact with in a seemingly physical way. In this context, Speidel develops a special software for data glasses enabling surgeons to see a three-dimensional projection of the organ or tissue to be treated prior to the operation. By hand movements, the surgeon can rotate and turn the spatial image as desired.
In the foreseeable future, patients might benefit from Speidel's work adding a new dimension to the expertise of the Dresden University Medical Center. The data goggles for surgical planning are already being tested in pilot studies. The intraoperative assistance system is to be tested in studies at the NCT Dresden, and could be available for certain operations in about ten years.
Computer scientist Speidel is the first NCT professor in Dresden. Two professorships in the fields of "Translational Medical Oncology" and "Translational Imaging in Oncology" will shortly be filled with leading scientists and physicians; further two professorships will follow. The NCT-funded professorships aim at strengthening certain oncological key research areas in Dresden. Before moving to Dresden,
Speidel headed the "Computer-Assisted Surgery" working group at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and already worked closely with scientists from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and physicians at Heidelberg University Hospital. NCT Dresden now offers her excellent conditions to push her interdisciplinary research across the institution’s locations.
Stefanie Speidel, born in 1978, studied at Karlsruhe University (TU) and the Royal Institute of Technology Stockholm (Sweden). As postdoctoral research fellow, she worked at Heidelberg University. In 2012, she joined the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) heading her own junior research group “Computer-assisted Surgery”. Stefanie Speidel already received a number of scientific awards, including the Technology Award of the European Association for Endoscopic Surgery (2007), the Maria Gräfin von Linden Award (2011), and a Margarete von Wrangell Fellowship (2011). Moreover, she was honored twice for outstanding teaching.
Two images of the press release are available free of charge:
Caption image1: Since April, Stefanie Speidel has been Professor for “Translational Surgical Oncology“ at the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Dresden. The computer scientist develops intelligent assistance systems for cancer surgery.
Caption image 2: In the endoscopic image of the liver, the three-dimensional representation of the tumors (green) and the vascular tree (blue) are displayed. Stefanie Speidel, Professor at the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Dresden, develops intelligent tools reliably guiding surgeons to their goals.
The use is free of charge. NCT Dresden allows one-time use in connection with reporting on the topic of the press release. As picture credits please state: Image 1: André Wirsig, image 2: KIT
Professor Stefanie Speidel is available for interviews on April 4th from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm and from 2:00 pm to 2:30 pm
Your contact person is Dr. Anna Kraft, NCT Dresden Press and Public Relations, Tel. +49 (0) 351 458-7440, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Anna Kraft
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The National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Dresden
Since 2015, Dresden has been the second site of the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) following Heidelberg. NCT Dresden is jointly run by the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), the University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus Dresden, the Medical Faculty of the Technical University of Dresden, and the Helmholtz Center Dresden-Rossendorf. NCT has itself set the task of linking research and patient care as closely as possible. This allows cancer patients in Dresden and Heidelberg to be treated according to the latest scientific knowledge. In addition, the proximity of the laboratory with the clinic gives scientists at NCT important impulses for their practical research. The common goal of both sites is to develop NCT into an international center of excellence for near-patient cancer research. From 2019, i.e. after the development phase, the annual funding of NCT Dresden will amount to 15 million euro. This amount will be put up by the Federal Government and the Free State of Saxony in a ratio of 90 to 10 percent. For the construction of a new NCT building, the Free State of Saxony has additionally allocated 22 million euro.
The German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ)
The German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) with its more than 3,000 employees is the largest biomedical research institute in Germany. At DKFZ, more than 1,000 scientists investigate the development of cancer, identify cancer risk factors, and search for new strategies to prevent people from developing cancer. They work on novel methods to make tumor diagnosis more precise and treatment of cancer patients more successful. The staff of the Cancer Information Service (KID) informs patients, their families, and the interested general public about the widespread disease of cancer. Together with Heidelberg University Hospital, DKFZ established the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Heidelberg where promising approaches from cancer research are translated into the clinic. Within the German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research (DKTK), one of the six German Centers for Health Research, DKFZ operates translational centers at seven university partner sites. Combining excellent university hospitals with high-profile research of a Helmholtz Center is an important contribution to improving the chances of cancer patients. DKFZ is member of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers, with ninety percent of its funding being allocated by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and ten percent by the Federal State of Baden-Württemberg.
Medical Faculty Carl Gustav Carus of the Technical University of Dresden
The Dresden University Medical Center consisting of the Medical Faculty Carl Gustav Carus and the University Hospital of the same name is specialized oncology research as well as research into metabolic, neurological and psychiatric disorders. Within these fields of research, the topic areas of degeneration and regeneration, imaging and technology development, immunology and inflammation as well as prevention and health services research are generally of particular interest. International exchange is a prerequisite for cutting-edge research - the Dresden University Medical Center lives up to this idea with employees from 73 nations as well as numerous collaborations with researchers and teams from all over the world.
University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus Dresden
The University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus Dresden offers medical care at the highest level. As maximum-care hospital, it covers the entire spectrum of modern medicine. The University Hospital unites 20 clinics and polyclinics, four institutes and ten interdisciplinary centers, all of whichwork closely with the clinical and theoretical institutes of the Medical Faculty. With its 1,295 beds and 160 places for the day-clinic treatment of patients, Dresden University Hospital is the city’s largest hospital and the only maximum-care hospital in East Saxony. Around 860 doctors cover the entire spectrum of modern medicine. 1,860 nurses care for the patients’ well-being. The University Hospital focuses on the treatment of cancer patients, or patients with metabolic and neurodegenerative diseases. Germany's largest hospital comparison of the news magazine "Focus" certifies the Dresden University Hospital’s excellent treatment quality. In the Germany-wide ranking, the Dresden University Medical Center has therefore been ranked third for several consecutive years.
Helmholtz Center Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR)
The Helmholtz Center Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) conducts research in the fields of energy, health and matter. The following questions are in focus:
- How to use energy and resources efficiently, safely and sustainably?
- How can cancer be better visualized, characterized and effectively treated?
- How do matter and materials behave under the influence of high fields and in the smallest dimensions?
To answer these scientific questions, HZDR operates large infrastructures, which are also used by externs: Ion Beam Center, Dresden High Magnetic Field Laboratory and ELBE Center for High Power Radiation Sources. HZDR is member of the Helmholtz Association, operates five sites (Dresden, Freiberg, Grenoble, Leipzig, Schenefeld near Hamburg), and employs about 1,100 people - including approximately 500 scientists, 150 of which are PhD students.