Culture Drives Innovation and Improves Cancer Care

Surgical oncologist and physician-researcher Richard Barth, MD (right), meets with engineers Venkat Krishnaswamy, PhD (middle), and Keith Paulsen, PhD (left), to discuss their device that improves the accuracy of breast cancer surgery.

Surgeons love to fix things. Often that means removing a tumor or repairing a joint. But for surgical oncologist Richard Barth, MD, that also means improving the entire approach for one of the most common surgeries he does: lumpectomy, removing a tumor while leaving the breast intact. 

Approximately one in three women who undergo a lumpectomy need a second surgery to remove cancerous tissue that was missed the first time. Barth believed better outcomes were possible. So he teamed up with biomedical engineers Venkat Krishnaswamy, PhD, and Keith Paulsen, PhD, from Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering. With entrepreneurial support from Dartmouth and seed funding from a generous donor, the trio invented a highly effective, low-cost device called the Breast Cancer Locator. They then launched a company to test it in clinical trials and bring it to market. Early clinical results of the device demonstrate near perfect accuracy and no need for repeat surgeries. That’s better for patients and reduces healthcare costs.  

Innovating to improve care for patients is part of the culture at Dartmouth’s Cancer Center. With faculty from 21 departments across Dartmouth, multi-disciplinary teams pursue scientific and medical advances while ensuring that all care remains intensely personal—aligned with the needs and values of patients.

“From basic scientists to engineers, I’ve found a lot of collaborators at Dartmouth. By combining their expertise and my clinical knowledge as a surgical oncologist, we’ve been able to bring much better care to patients.” 

—Richard Barth, MD, Professor of Surgery; Section Chief, General Surgery