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Kubanda: Breast Cancer Treatment in Rural Clinics in South Africa

Team Members:
  • Sanjay Elangovan
  • Alwin Hui
  • Nikhil Jois
  • Yechan Kang
  • Ben Lee
  • Sarah Lee
  • Monica Rex
  • Bailey Surtees
  • Sonia Traku
  • Susan Harvey, MD
  • Nicholas Durr, PhD
  • Youseph Yazdi, PhD,
  • Kelvin Hong, MD
  • Su Lucas, MBBCh
  • Kristy Peterson
  • Richard Hughen, MBA


Breast cancer is a growing problem throughout the world. However, in recent years, as more developing countries begin to adopt Western lifestyles, the incidence of cancer has begun to rise in low and middle-income countries, particularly in rural areas. In South Africa, most rural women do not have ready and affordable access to proper treatment, as those diagnosed have to be referred to regional hospitals, which are farther away. The high costs often cause women to delay treatment, or discourage them from seeking out treatment at all, which leads to high mortality rates and lowered quality of life. Over 78% of women in South Africa are not diagnosed or treated until the cancer has already metastasized. With a current five-year survival rate of just 40-50%, we see an opportunity to make a strong impact in the lives of rural women in South Africa and other low and middle-income countries by developing a low-cost treatment that can be delivered by physicians in rural clinics in order to increase the accessibility of treatment to reduce mortality and increase the quality of life for these women.

Our solution is a cryoablation device that utilizes carbon dioxide, a gas that is readily available in most low and middle-income areas. By harnessing the cooling power of the Joule-Thomson Effect, we aim to freeze and kill cancer cells. Cryoprobes commonly used in the United States, which generally use argon gas, cost upwards of $2000 and are not reusable. Our innovation not only aims to utilize gas that is available in the targeted areas, but also to be autoclavable, thus making cryotherapy affordable and accessible for these patients. Using this probe, we hope to be able to greatly decrease the cost of cancer treatment and increase its accessibility.

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