Founders of UW-Madison spin-off company NeuWave Medical are improving microwave ablation, a minimally invasive procedure that could expand the number of treatment options for people with certain types of cancer.
To perform microwave ablation, radiologists use ultrasound imaging or computed tomography to guide a thin antenna into the body. The antenna radiates enough energy to “cook” and kill cancerous cells. Microwave ablation is akin to spot-treating cancer. With technological improvements, the procedure is well-suited for focal, or self-contained, tumors in such regions of the body as the liver, kidney or lungs, says Assistant Professor Chris Brace (also medical physics and radiology). “People are starting to think, ‘If new technologies can provide power and control, ablation could become a primary treatment option,’” he says.
As a UW-Madison electrical and computer engineering PhD student, Brace and biomedical engineering PhD student Paul Laeseke (now a radiology resident at Stanford University) studied microwave ablation under Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Dan van der Weide and Robert Turrel Professor of Medical Imaging Fred Lee (both also BME). They addressed ways to deliver higher powers through small-diameter antennas that are safe for percutaneous use.
Hoping to capitalize on their advances, van der Weide, Lee and Susan Andrews-Winter founded the company (then called Micrablate) in 2004, and Brace and Laeseke came on board shortly after. Securing more than $8 million in federal grants, venture capital and private investments, company researchers now are perfecting the Certus 140, an integrated, high-power, high-precision ablation system. In February 2010, the Wisconsin Department of Commerce included NeuWave on its list of the top-30 second-stage companies to watch in 2010.