This New Device Is Revolutionizing Breast Surgery at Fox Chase Cancer Center

The center is now using SmartClip Soft Tissue Marker, which provides 3D, GPS-like navigation to help surgeons extract tumors with more precision.

SmartClip Soft Tissue Marker

Fox Chase Cancer Center is the only cancer center in the region using the new SmartClip Soft Tissue Marker to assist in breast tumor removal. Photograph courtesy Fox Chase Cancer Center

There’s no question that Philadelphia is a city with world-class cancer care. And that’s thanks in part to the fact that more and more, Philly-area oncologists are implementing innovative technologies — like liquid biopsies and micro-ultrasounds — that help make biopsies and surgeries as minimally invasive as possible. These treatment options can benefit patients because procedures with fewer incisions can lead to more precise tumor extraction, as well as shorter hospital stays and quicker recoveries.

These reasons are what led Dr. Richard Bleicher, leader of the breast cancer program at Fox Chase Cancer Center, to begin utilizing the SmartClip Soft Tissue Marker, a new device for localizing nonpalpable breast tumors with more accuracy and ease. Having performed approximately 50 surgeries with SmartClip in the past four months, Fox Chase is currently the only cancer center in the Philadelphia region using the FDA-cleared device for assisting in breast tumor removal.

Created by Minnesota-based company Elucent Medical, SmartClip is an implantable wireless marker that helps surgeons identify the exact location of a tumor site. After the SmartClip has been successfully inserted into the designated area, surgeons use SmartClip’s accompanying handheld probe to locate the marker with real-time 3D renderings, which Fox Chase describes as “something akin to surgical GPS.” The technology displays the relative distance, depth, and direction to the marker, making tumor targeting clear and precise. “The 3D technology helps us plan and operate more strategically, optimizing [marker] detection and surgery time, and limiting the amount of removed tissue,” Bleicher explains.

SmartClip Soft Tissue Marker

A look at the SmartClip Soft Tissue Marker, which provides a 3D rendering to assist in navigating to a tumor’s location. Image courtesy Fox Chase Cancer Center

SmartClip is revolutionizing the traditional approach to breast surgery, wire localization, which marks the tumor site using a needle and wire on the day of surgery. That wire remains implanted in the breast and is used to guide surgeons to the target area, and is then removed with the suspicious breast tissue. This, Bleicher notes, presents challenges. For instance, surgery has to be performed the same day as the wire localization, resulting in often prolonged hospital visits. Additionally, the wire itself doesn’t always provide surgeons definitive locations of tumors, especially if it bends while traversing layers of the breast.

Bleicher says SmartClip mitigates these pitfalls by being convenient and efficient for both patients and doctors. The marker can be placed days or weeks prior to surgery with no ill effects, and the technology as a whole improves incision choices, sparing the patient any surrounding tissue during surgery. Most importantly, Bleicher notes, is that the seamlessness of use can reduce patient stress. “When someone is diagnosed with breast cancer, it can be a very overwhelming experience,” he says. “Our job is to alleviate that stress on the day of surgery, and this technology really helps us do that.”