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Dartmouth Startup's Invention Wins NH Product of the Year

Oct 28, 2021   |   by Julie Bonette

The Breast Cancer Locator (BCL) device developed by Dartmouth startup CairnSurgical has won the NH Tech Alliance Product of the Year competition.

l to r: Professors Keith Paulsen, Venkat Krishnaswamy, and Richard Barth Jr. (Photo by Mark Washburn)

CairnSurgical was co-founded in 2015 by Dartmouth professor of engineering Keith Paulsen, along with professor of surgery and surgical oncologist Richard Barth Jr., and Venkat Krishnaswamy, who worked at Dartmouth Engineering for over a decade. In addition, Matt Pallone '07 Th'09 Th'13 performed much of the early research that set the stage for the company's invention while he was an engineering PhD Innovation Program student at Dartmouth.

"Wow, I am so excited to be part of this winning team. I figured we'd do pretty well, and might even win, because BCL is an elegant, custom solution for each breast cancer patient that solves a long-standing, significant clinical need. But having some public support was so gratifying, especially since some of the finalists represented much larger companies."

The BCL device utilizes pre-operative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data, which is taken for breast cancer patients prior to breast conserving surgery. The Cairn team then analyzes the tumor's geometry and location in order to 3-D print a patient-specific surgical guide.

"We asked ourselves how we could get something in the breast that provides guidance during surgery. And so, we came up with this 3-D printed form that the surgeon uses at the start of the procedure to insert wires into the breast that bracket the cancer."

Dartmouth Engineering Professor Keith Paulsen

Currently, Cairn is in the midst of a nearly 450-person investigational device exemption (IDE) trial for the BCL device. An earlier trial cut the positive surgical margin rate — when not all the cancer is removed causing an increased likelihood of recurrence — of 130 patients approximately from 20 percent to 10 percent. Since then, the BCL has undergone several rounds of improvements, so Paulsen is optimistic about the current trial's results.

"I think the IDE trial will be positive from everything that I can see," said Paulsen. "The device works, and we think it could be easily adopted into the operating room. The trial could be a home run if the data is really eye popping, and we think there's potential it could be."

The New Hampshire Product of the Year competition is organized by the NH Tech Alliance to offer the local business community an opportunity to recognize the outstanding achievements of in-state companies who develop innovative technology products.

To read more about the competition, visit the NH Tech Alliance website.

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