Increased Efficacy of Cancer Treatment through Drug Release and Hyperthermia Therapy using Microrobots

DGIST Professor Hongsoo Choi’s team developed a biodegradable micro-robot that performs both drug release and hyperthermia treatment into a desired area. Improved drug treatment and opened a new path of future anti-cancer treatment.

Professor Hongsoo Choi in the Department of Robotics Engineering (left), Combined degree student Jongeon Park (right)

A mimetic diagram of cancer cell treatment mechanism by a biodegradable micro-robot

 Professor Hongsoo Choi’s research team in Department of Robotics Engineering & DGIST-ETH Microrobot Research Center (DEMRC) at DGIST (President Young Kuk) succeeded in developing a biodegradable microrobot that can perform hyperthermia treatment and control drug release. This research can treat cancer cells through hyperthermia and controlled drug release more precisely and systematically, expecting to raise the safety and efficiency of anti-cancer treatment.

 Anti-cancer treatment is carried out in various ways such as drug and hyperthermia, radiation, and medical surgery. Although drug treatment is the most commonly used method among them, it is difficult to deliver a desired amount accurately to a certain part because it highly depends on the circulatory function of body. Hyperthermia is hard to be delivered to a certain part as well despite its recent popularity due to little side-effects. To overcome these limitations, Professor Hongsoo Choi’s research team at DGIST developed 3D bio-degradable microrobots that can hold magnetic nano particles and drugs with 3D laser lithography process1

 To use a microrobot inside human body, it must go through an in vivo degradation or retrieved after use to minimize additional harmful effects. As a result, the research team made a microrobot with a biodegradable polymer and designed it to be bio-degraded after it is completely used. It can also carry out transport of drugs fast and accurately through wireless control using external magnetic field.

 When a high frequency of alternating magnetic field2 is given to the robot that reached a desired part, the heat generated from the magnetic nano particles inside the microrobot raise the surrounding temperature to perform hyperthermia treatment on the target area. A big achievement of this research is enabling accurate drug release by controlling the intensity and exposure time of alternating magnetic field. The research team confirmed the significant effectiveness of hyperthermia treatment using microrobot on cancer cells cultured in vitro and the therapeutic effects of different drug release modes controlled by alternating magnetic field. 

 Professor Choi in the DEMRC said “We expect to improve the treatment of cancer through our research, enhancing the efficiency of cancer treatment and reducing side-effects. By continuously performing a follow-up research with hospitals and related firms, we will strive to develop microrobot-based precise treatment system that can be used in actual medical sites.”

 This research was participated by Jongeon Park, a master student in the Department of Robotics Engineering as the first author and Senior Researcher Jin-Young Kim in the DEMRC as the co-author, with support by the Ministry of Science and ICT and Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy. The research result was published on world-renowned international journal ‘Advanced Healthcare Materials’ on August 22 and was also supported by the Ministry of Science and ICT and the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy.

1  3D Laser Lithography: Laser with 780nm-long, short 100fs wavelength is irradiated and exposed to sensitizer. Can build a precise 3D structure without a mask. 
2  Alternating Magnetic Field: A magnetic field that regularly alternates between intensity H and intensity H of reverse direction 

A degradation image of micro-robot along time

Published: 03 Sep 2019

Contact details:


333, Techno jungang-daero, Hyeonpung-myeon, Dalseong-gun, Daegu, 42988

Academic discipline: 

Jongeon Park, Chaewon Jin, Seungmin Lee, Jin‐Young Kim, and Hongsoo Choi, "Magnetically Actuated Degradable Microrobots for Actively Controlled Drug Release and Hyperthermia Therapy", Advanced Healthcare Materials, 22th Aug 2019.

Funding information: 
Ministry of Science and ICT and the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy, Korea