January 5, 2023

Rebecca W. Cook (Duke University)

An evolutionary approach to inform pelvic implant shapes in patients with hip cancer

Fall 2022 Graduate Student Award in Cancer & Evolution


Cancers that affect the pelvic region sometimes require drastic  measures that severely alter walking gait, and therefore diminish the functional outcomes and quality of life for patients. A hemipelvectomy is a limb-saving surgery that involves the removal of a portion of the hip affected by cancer. Sometimes this surgery is accompanied by a prosthetic implant that replaces the removed bone. In this case, the muscles surrounding the hip are usually reattached to the implant or redirected to another part of the pelvis. While patient outcomes are generally better for hemipelvectomy patients compared to those who receive amputations, morbidity rates are still high and functional outcomes are not always predictable. This project will study the functional effects of different surgical techniques and use this information to advise on the structure of the surgical implants. Utilizing my knowledge of the evolution of the pelvis, including pelvic shape and associated function of hip muscles, I will work with orthopaedic surgical oncologists at Duke Health and the biomechanics team at restor3D to create a custom implant better suited to the biomechanical needs of each patient. Results of the study will inform ideal shapes of the implant, determine a standard surgical procedure for the reattachment of muscles, and improve quality of life for future patients.

Rebecca (she/her) is a Ph.D. candidate in the Evolutionary Anthropology Department at Duke University. Her research focuses on the biomechanics of gait in hominins.