ARPA-H launches program for more precise cancer tumor removal


New ARPA-H program to develop novel technologies for more precise cancer tumor removal

Today, the Biden Cancer Moonshot announced a first-of-its-kind Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) program to develop novel technologies that will allow surgeons to remove cancerous tumors with more precision and accuracy, resulting in better health outcomes for Americans facing cancer. The launch of this program—ARPA-H’s first program targeting cancer and second program overall—represents a major milestone for ARPA-H.

“Harnessing the power of innovation is essential to achieving our ambitious goal of turning more cancers from death sentences to treatable diseases and – in time – cutting the cancer death rate in half. As we’ve seen throughout our history, from developing vaccines to sequencing the genome, when the U.S. government invests in innovation, we can achieve breakthroughs that would otherwise be impossible, and save lives on a vast scale. ARPA-H follows in that tradition of bold, urgent innovation,” President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden said in a statement.

Surgical procedures are often the first treatment option for the approximately 2 million Americans diagnosed with cancer each year. However, current surgical technologies do not allow doctors to easily and fully distinguish cancer cells from normal surrounding tissue in the operating room. This can lead to repeat surgeries, a more difficult recovery, and cancer recurrence, as well as higher health care costs.

ARPA-H’s new Precision Surgical Interventions (PSI) program aims to deliver groundbreaking new tools to enable surgeons to successfully remove cancer for patients through a single operation by better identifying and differentiating between healthy and cancer tissue. Technologies developed through this program will also help surgeons spot and avoid important structures such as nerves, blood vessels, and lymph nodes, which can be mistakenly damaged during invasive surgical procedures. In alignment with the Biden Cancer Moonshot and to advance equity, the PSI program is designed to ensure emerging technologies that are accessible in rural and urban areas, improving health outcomes for all Americans facing cancer.

“With the Precision Surgical Interventions program, we're seeking to fundamentally change how surgery is done. Imagine if surgeries fixed problems flawlessly, the first time,” said Ileana Hancu, Ph.D., ARPA-H PSI Program Manager. "Cancer is one disease we're addressing, but the potential benefits of the tools developed could extend across many types of surgery, for many diseases and populations.”

Through a forthcoming Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for the PSI program, ARPA-H will solicit proposals for methods and techniques to improve visibility of cancer and other critical anatomical structures during surgery. ARPA-H’s PSI BAA will solicit proposals focused on cancer localization and healthy structure localization. Recognizing that there is likely more than one ambitious solution to this tough challenge, multiple awards under this BAA are anticipated and resources available will depend on the quality of the proposals received and the availability of funds. To ensure the devices can be readily adopted in the real world, awardees will be consulting with surgeons and ARPA-H on usability. A Proposers Day for interested research teams is scheduled for September 7, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois.

Learn more about PSI on its program page, including information about the PSI Special Notice and Proposers’ Day registration.