Medical researchers and donors come together to develop ways to fight a dreaded disease. By Cristina Rouvalis THE PITTSBURGH FOUNDATION’S CENTER FOR PHILANTHROPY UPMC EYE & EAR INSTITUTE PITTSBURGH COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH EDUCATION AND TECHNOLOGY ENHANCEMENT IN SURGERY (CREATES) CARNEGIE MELLON UNIVERSITY MEDROBOTICS CENTER FOR PHILANTHROPY MEETS MEDICAL ROBOTICS ENGINEERING ACURE I N S I D E A L A B AT T H E U N I V E R S I T Y O F P I T T S B U R G H M E D I C A L C E N T E R ’ S Eye & EarInstituteinOakland,Dr.UmamaheswarDuvvuristandsoveralife-size medicalmanikinandinsertsalong,thinrodintoitsmouth.Hewigglesthe flexible tube — a robotic arm — and then takes it out again. It’s too wide to passthroughthethroatanddowntheesophagus,butthat’snotaproblem. The trial-and-error process is part of fine-tuning the design. Asasurgeon,Duvvuritrustsonepairoftoolsmorethananyother — his hands.Andyet,heisalltoofamiliarwiththeirlimitations,whichiswhyhe is leading an initiative that will allow him to operate without touching his patients.It’sallaboutrobottechnology,andtheprocedureheisdeveloping promisesalessinvasive,moreeffectivewaytotreatpatientswhohavedeadly esophageal cancer. To aid this cutting-edge research, The Pittsburgh Foundation has given$100,000,matchedbyanother$100,000fromtheFoundation’sMyers FamilyFoundationFund(adonor-advisedfund)toPittsburghCollaborative Research Education and Technology Enhancement in Surgery (CREATES). The esophageal cancer project is one of many at the institute that focuses on research, training and innovation for developing minimally invasive, advanced surgical technologies. When cancer strikes the esophagus — the muscular tube that runs fromthemouthtothestomach — survivalstatisticsaregrim,andtreatment options are limited. Using the conventional approach, surgeons cut into the chest cavity, avoiding the heart and other vital organs while removing thediseasedsegmentoftheesophagus.Thepatientisleftwithashortened esophagus and a list of serious complications, ranging from salivary leaks and digestive issues to infections and loss of speech due to nerve damage. “It’s disruptive,” says Duvvuri. “It’s sort of like digging up your whole backyard to fix a broken water pipe. Now, wouldn’t it be neat if you could go through your faucet with a little camera and thread it backwards to get 25 RE PO RT TO TH E CO MMU N ITY THE PITTSBURGH FOUNDATION