Monday, October 17, 2011

HIFU Symposium: Sheikh Zayed Institute's model of collaboration comes to life

I'm often asked to give examples of the types of collaborations that the Sheikh Zayed Institute was intended to facilitate. A few weeks ago, I participated in what I consider a model collaboration, a symposium on high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU). The symposium included the NIH Clinical Center's research program in HIFU, the Institute scientists and doctors, and division chiefs from several of the hospital's clinical divisions, including Oncology, Fetal Medicine, and General Surgery, to discuss HIFU's promise and limitations for the pediatric setting.

High intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) is a technique growing in popularity in the adult population. It is a non-invasive procedure that involves focusing ultrasound energy into a small target zone (less than centimeter size) to destroy tissue, such as tumors or cysts. Not only does the approach not require an incision, it can also be used to target tissue that can't be easily reached by traditional surgical methods.

“Our work to date shows the promise of this technology in moving from the minimally invasive to the non-invasive, and we think that HIFU could be an incredible tool in pediatrics to tackle some of the current access challenges in surgery and image guided therapies, but at the same also reduce radiation exposure, both really key concerns in surgery for children," said Brad Wood, MD, Director of the NIH's Center for Interventional Oncology.

The level of conversation made this symposium a different type of meeting. Instead of standard scientific presentations, the format was designed to encourage constant feedback. The institute's investigators, the NIH scientists, and the clinical experts who touch these issues every day worked through each presentation. At the end of the meeting, all came away with a unique understanding of the need for HIFU applications in children, the challenges that pediatrics present to this treatment, and the promise of these HIFU applications in children.

"One in five children will die from their cancer. Of the survivors, 30 percent will have chronic complications", said Jeffrey Dome, MD, Chief of the Division of Oncology and McKnew Professor of Pediatric Oncology at Children's National. "We need to reduce the treatment failures and the number of complications from treatment. HIFU, by reducing radiation exposure and treatment time could really impact the places where our traditional treatment modalities haven't been as successful."

Peter Kim, vice president of the institute, summed up the overall shared goals of the group--finding new ways to treat children as effectively as possible. "There are few places where even surgeons advocate for the application of non-invasive methods like HIFU, but it shows that everyone here is truly focused on the most important thing: how to best help children."

Much work remains to make bring HIFU into pediatric clinical practice, but a partnership, modeled along the lines of the HIFU symposium between scientists, bioengineers, and clinicians, would speed the development of this technology and help us impact more kids in the near future.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Institute bioengineers at MICCAI

Guest post by Kevin Cleary, PhD

The Bioengineering Initiative of the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation was well represented at the Medical Image Computing and Computer Assisted Interventions (MICCAI) meeting in Toronto from September 18-22, 2011.

Principal Investigator Ziv Yaniv, PhD, was the lead organizer for a tutorial on Image-Guided Interventions. Principal Investigator Marius George Linguraru, PhD, was a co-organizer for a workshop on Computational and Clinical Applications in Abdominal Imaging. Additionally, I was a participant and panel speaker during the workshop on Systems and Architectures for Computer Assisted Interventions.

The MICCAI meeting is an annual event, which attracts leading scientists and engineers from a wide range of disciplines associated with medical imaging and computer assisted surgery. Each year, more than 1,000 people from around the world attend this high level convention. Session topics address issues encountered in a wide variety of image-based clinical disciplines including cardiology, radiology, and surgery. A rigorous double blind review process with five reviewers assigned to each paper ensures the high technical quality of the presentations. For anyone interested in the latest technical developments in medical image analysis and computer assisted interventions, this is the conference of choice.

“MICCAI is the essential annual meeting for the medical imaging community and an important venue for us to represent our new institute and pioneering work. It is a very efficient way to establish new research alliances,” said Dr. Linguraru. “The MICCAI conference highlights key technologies that we plan to incorporate into future navigation systems for pediatric applications.

In addition, the conference gives us the opportunity to interact and recruit highly skilled individuals interested in developing the next generation of navigation systems for pediatric interventions,” added Dr. Yaniv. The conference was very motivating for all of the Sheikh Zayed attendees as the meeting highlighted the continuing influx of technology into the clinical realm.

The next annual meeting will be October 1-5, 2012 in Nice, France. Proposals for workshop and tutorials are due January 6, 2012, and papers for reviews are due March 1, 2012. Further information can be found at

--Kevin Cleary, Technical Director, Sheikh Zayed Institute

Monday, October 3, 2011

Meet the Joseph E. Robert, Jr., Fellows in Pediatric Surgical Innovation

There are some new faces in the Sheikh Zayed Institute: the first class of the Joseph E. Robert, Jr., Fellows in Pediatric Surgical Innovation. They are all innovation-minded early career bioengineers and healthcare professionals, looking to learn the principles of innovation and apply their expertise to impact pediatric surgical care. They include:
  • Mahdi Azizian, PhD, bioengineer
  • Alana Beres, MD, a general surgeon
  • Amy Burns, MD, a urologist
  • Katherine Davenport, MD, a general surgeon
Every fellow becomes an active part of the primary activities of the institute as soon as they come on board. Dr. Azizian, whose expertise is in surgical robotics, offered this observation: “From the moment you walk through the doors, you join a dynamic team developing, implementing and testing novel ideas together.”

(Photo, right: Principal Investigator Craig Peters and two Robert Fellows, Katherine Davenport (left) and Amy Burns (right) brainstorming at an Institute Innovation Wall.)

Each fellow creates several project plans for research that will advance pediatric surgical innovation based on his or her own interests and backgrounds, and works collaboratively with the faculty and staff of the institute to implement these programs. Some of the fellows have a specific project goal in mind, like Dr. Beres, who wants to investigate whether non-invasive high-intensity focused ultrasound can work for pediatric surgery. “The Sheikh Zayed Institute presented the chance for me to join the team that will really advance this promising technique to help children with cancer, and I had to take that opportunity.”

Others have a more general approach, like Dr. Davenport, who sees the fellowship as a “unique opportunity to apply surgical problem-solving toward pediatric surgical care.”

Day to day, the fellows participate in faculty meetings and a full set of courses in healthcare innovation and its implementation in pediatrics, to equip them with the tools they will need to sustain interest in innovation even after their time at the institute has ended. Dr. Burns believes the Robert Fellow experience will help her “translate research into actual pediatric urologic care throughout my career. This knowledge will hopefully provide a strong foundation for me to impact positively health care for children.”

The Robert Fellowship is designed to harness the various strengths of its applicants, and maximize their talents toward the shared goal of making pediatric surgery more precise, less invasive and pain free. From a variety of specialty areas, even in their first few weeks at the Sheikh Zayed Institute, it’s clear that the four fellows share a common interest in truly impacting how children are cared for.

The Joseph E. Robert, Jr., Fellowships, are named for philanthropist Joseph E. Robert, Jr., a longtime supporter and parent of a child treated at Children’s National. Mr. Robert helped fund the existing surgical center at Children’s National, the Joseph E. Robert, Jr., Center for Surgical Care.

Learn more about our current class of Robert Fellows at:

Read the press release welcoming our new fellows.