UH Moment

UH Moment: “Engineering Cures”

Cancer treatments carry their own challenges. But thanks to interdisciplinary collaborations, like one between the University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering and Methodist Hospital, challenges treating lung cancer may be lessened.  Here’s this week’s UH Moment.


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Ji Chen, UH Associate
ProfessorLung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in men and women.  Doctors are challenged in treating patients’ disease because of one life-sustaining action—breathing.  The moving lung makes it difficult for radiation to hit its mark. 

“Lung cancer has the lowest cure rate right now because, during the treatment, people breath and cancer cells move,” said Ji Chen, UH associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.  “Typically the X-Ray cannot hit the target.  The spot is changing.”

Chen is collaborating with Methodist Hospital as he constructs a transponder, a small chip placed under the skin, which sends a signal to existing treatment devices to “guide” radiation to the moving tumor, sparing healthy tissue, and potentially boosting the cure rate.

Diagram of the effects of lung cancer“The approach we’re using right now is to put a transponder, very small, into the neighborhood of the lung cancer cell and then it send out the electromagnetic signal,” he said.  “All the energy is delivered right to the spot rather than to surrounding tissues.” 

Chen and his team eventually will integrate the transponder with existing technology to treat lung cancer.

“It’s like a beacon,” he said.  “This way, we put the right energy where it should be.”

Ji Chen is part of what’s happening at the University of Houston.  I’m Marisa Ramirez. 

Telling the stories of the University of Houston, this UH Moment is brought to you by KUHF, listener supported radio from the University of Houston.