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The force of attraction

Innovative treatment in nanomedicine

For ten years, the Section of Experimental Oncology and Nanomedicine (SEON) at the Department of Otorhinolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Erlangen has been researching innovative diagnostic and treatment methods. One of the techniques developed here by senior doctor Prof. Dr. med. Christoph Alexiou and his team is the magnetic drug targeting (MDT) drug delivery system. This injects magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles carrying a drug into the vascular system in the region of a tumour. With the help of an innovative magnetic robot, the active substance can be transported directly to the areas requiring treatment.

Used technologies:


Section of Experimental Oncology and Nanomedicine (SEON)

The Starting Point:
Numerous side effects associated with conventional treatment

In conventional chemotherapy, less than one percent of the drug administered reaches the tumour. This type of treatment can also cause severe side effects. As part of the new treatment method, magnetic nanoparticles to which the drug binds are administered by intraarterial injection and transported straight to the site of the tumour by an external magnet. Almost 60 percent of the active substance reaches the tumour, allowing a lower dose to be given from the outset. The drug accumulates in the cancer cells, eventually destroying their DNA. This method is much more effective and does not damage healthy tissue. At first, the scientists experimented with manually controlled magnets. The benefit of the robot is that it can use movement profiles to move to each tumour site in turn to destroy the tumours in a very precise and coordinated manner. In this way, metastases can also be easily reached. With toolcraft’s robot solution, it is possible to use magnetic nanoparticles to specifically target and treat cancer cells for the first time.

The Challenge:
A heavyweight with high precision

The enormous weight of the treatment head had to be taken into account during the design work, as the robotic arm needed to be able to support the heavy load. The developers chose to use the Stäubli TX200, which has a reach of over 2 metres. They also produced a huge support frame to ensure stability and precision. The robot is so big that when it was delivered, a door at the Erlangen University Hospital had to be removed so that the doorway could be widened.

The Approach:
Using the force of attraction to treat cancer

  • Formation of a project team in the area of robotics
  • Concept design and visualisation of the system
  • Production of a specially designed tool holder
  • Set up and commissioning on site at the Erlangen University Hospital

The Results:
Promising research for the future

The aim of the research being conducted by Prof. Dr. med. Christoph Alexiou is to find a precise, efficient way of treating cancer patients without any side effects, if at all possible. Since mid-2019, he and his team have been using an industrial robot with a pot magnet specially developed by toolcraft for research purposes. It is the world’s first robot system for the targeted and precise transport of iron oxide nanoparticles controlled by a magnetic field.

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Magnetic robot for SEON (Section of Experimental Oncology and Nanomedicine)

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Andreas Bauer

Business Unit Manager Robotics