Innoblative Designs

Stage 2 E-Team Grantees

Recipient Institution: 
Northwestern University
Principal Investigator: 
David Mahvi
Grant Amount: 

A radiofrequency ablation probe designed for the unique challenges of breast cancer.

Ablation Designs

The team:
Innoblative Designs – Awarded $19,369

The team members:

  • Oyinlolu “Lolu” Adeyanju, Ph.D., medical student in the N.I.H. Medical Scientist Training Program at the Feinberg School of Medicine
  • Daniel McCarthy, M.D., M.B.A.,M.E.M., and a senior general surgery resident at Northwestern Memorial Hospital
  • Adam Piotrowski, CD2 Medical Device Innovation fellow at The Center for Device Development; founder of Create Big Ideas
  • Brian Robillard, master’s degree student in Biomedical Engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering; research assistant at the Northwestern University Prosthetics-Orthotics Center
  • Jason Sandler, JD/MBA student at the Northwestern School of Law and the Kellogg School of Management
  • Tyler Wanke, MMM candidate at the Kellogg School of Management and the McCormick School of Engineering; MD candidate at the Feinberg School of Medicine

Principal investigator:
Dr. David Mahvi
Professor and Chief of Gastrointestinal and Oncologic Surgery

Northwestern University

The innovation:
An expandable, handheld radiofrequency ablation (RFA) probe that generates heat from electricity to eliminate all cancerous cells remaining after breast cancer surgery. The innovation takes current tissue ablation treatments used in other areas of medicine and redesigns it to be more reliable and user-friendly to address the unique challenges of breast surgery. The result is a breast cancer treatment that is faster, safer, more convenient and less expensive than current therapies.

The problem:
In the U.S., the average woman has a one in eight chance of developing breast cancer in her lifetime. Thanks to medical advances, physicians are able to detect the disease in its early stages. However, there has been limited technological progress and innovation in the treatment of breast cancer over the last 20 to 30 years.

Breast cancer is typically treated by a lumpectomy to remove the cancerous tumor, followed by a long series of radiation treatments to destroy any cancer cells remaining in the patient’s breast after surgery. While this approach is generally seen as more favorable than removing the breast altogether with a mastectomy, there are many complications and challenges associated with radiation therapy, including long duration of treatment, short- and long-term side effects, geographic inconvenience and high cost. Studies show as many as 30 percent of women undergoing radiation therapy for breast cancer do not complete the treatment schedule as a result of one or more of these factors, and therefore are more susceptible to cancer recurrence.

The solution:
Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) has been successfully used to treat certain cancers and other medical conditions in which abnormal cells must be destroyed. It is faster due to its localized function and shortened treatment time, safer due to fewer side effects, more convenient due to one-time use and significantly less expensive than traditional radiation therapy. However, because the RFA probes currently on the market are designed to treat solid organ disease, they do not function properly in the post-lumpectomy breast cavity.

Innoblative Designs is developing a new device to meet the unique needs of RFA treatment for breast cancer. The expandable, handheld probe would be utilized in the operating room immediately following the lumpectomy, delivering RFA directly to the breast cavity to quickly kill remaining cancerous tissue. This practice would dramatically reduce the patient’s chance of cancer recurrence and need for radiation therapy. The RFA probe treatment for breast cancer would eliminate the need for radiation therapy in most, if not all, cases.

The future:
Innoblative Designs is currently in the process of optimizing its prototype through computer-aided design and analysis—testing various iterations for functional improvements. Additionally, Innoblative Designs is creating physical prototypes for hands-on testing. The long-term goal is to get the device through preclinical and clinical trials and ultimately into operating rooms, helping women and their families worldwide fight breast cancer in a way that is faster, safer, more convenient and less expensive.

Tips for student innovators:
Dr. Daniel McCarthy suggests that students “Build a team of diverse disciplines. What’s unique about Innoblative Designs is that each team member brings something different and valuable to our project. Coming from rich backgrounds in engineering, medicine, business, entrepreneurship and technology, our team has complementary skill sets that all lend themselves toward advancing the project in different and compelling ways. Another important tip—leap at as many networking opportunities as possible. You never know which connection will lead to your next breakthrough in development.”