October 5, 2022




According to the Canadian Breast Cancer Network, 40 per cent of Canadian women have dense breast tissue, which unfortunately means they are more likely to get breast cancer. It is vital to women’s health that they receive accurate diagnoses; however, as Cancer Care Ontario explains, because tumors and dense breast tissue both appear white on a mammogram, diagnosing breast cancer using mammograms alone can be difficult.

To help overcome these issues, MRIs are often recommended as the best diagnostic tool for women with a higher risk of developing breast cancer. However, maneuvering themselves and instruments in a small MRI space can be difficult for doctors. A more precise tool is needed to safely, accurately and effectively perform biopsies, allowing physicians to better prepare for treatment.

Enter Insight Medbotics, a Hamilton-based health systems company focused on improving breast cancer detection using robotic technology derived from Canadarm2.

Insight Medbotics’s Image Guided Automated Robot (IGAR) adapted MDA’s world-renowned robotics technology to work in the limited MRI space to execute a clinician-prepared, carefully pre-planned set of clinical functions to maximize the accuracy and precision of biopsies.

“The great thing about IGAR is that it is designed with the patient, the doctor and the healthcare system in mind,” said Paul Chipperton, CEO of Insight Medbotics. “The ability to pre-program a biopsy combined with the flexibility to make micro adjustments opens a world of possibilities —including tele-operability — so patients in remote locations can get the same quality of care that they would in a big city.”

Spun out from MDA several years ago and supported with seed funding, Insight Medbotics is now part MDA’s LaunchPad program, which supports Canadian small businesses working in the space sector and enables companies in other sectors to adapt innovative space technology. Canadians across the country count on space-based technologies every day.

“As the population continues to age, developing new ways to detect and treat breast cancer in women will be more critical to women’s healthcare than ever. It is important to women everywhere with breast cancer that we improve their care, outcomes, and quality of life,” said Dr. Susan Reid, Professor Emeritus, and Past Chair, Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University. “IGAR offers superior accuracy and precision in the care of these women which can result in minimally- and non-invasive therapeutic interventions, which can have a major impact on their recovery.”

Canadarm2 was built to help astronauts accomplish complex tasks in space; now, Insight Medbotics is using that same technology to help medical professionals accomplish complex tasks in a clinical setting. IGAR is further proof that technology developed for one environment can be adapted and applied to address needs in a different field entirely, showing that there are no limits when it comes to inspiration and innovation.