Robotics give second wind to cancer fight

Stacy Shi

Chinese University’s medical school has performed 18 successful lung cancer surgeries since December with the help of robotic technology, the first institution outside the United States to do so.

CU Medicine used hybrid operating room robot-assisted bronchoscopy to look for small, hard-to-reach nodules deep in the lung for early-stage lung cancer, and there have been 18 successful cases since December.

Rainbow Lau Wing-hung, a clinical assistant professor at CU Medicine, said bronchoscopy is a type of endoscopy that is usually performed by a doctor who specializes in lung diseases.

The procedure is performed using a remote console that is linked to robotic arms and a bronchoscope, which accurately drives the device to the desired location within the lung.

Lau said the advanced robotic mechanism of the bronchoscope also maintains stability when other tools are deployed for biopsy, improving the accuracy of lesion localization and diagnostic yield.

She said current conventional diagnostic options for lung cancer have limitations as they may lead to false negatives and complications such as invasiveness and haemorrhage.

However, the novel robotic-assisted bronchoscopy uses real-time optical imaging and electromagnetic positioning to enable the operator to navigate complex human airways, which can improve the accuracy and greatly increases the stability of the procedure.

Another CU Medicine professor, Calvin Ng Sze-hang, said: “The improved diagnostic yield from novel robotic-assisted bronchoscopy platforms, such as this compared to conventional bronchoscopy, will allow earlier cancer diagnosis and fewer repeat procedures, potentially saving costs, and ultimately providing a better patient experience and clinical outcome. ”

According to the Hong Kong Cancer Registry, lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in Hong Kong, causing 4,000 deaths in 2019.

With the advancement of medical imaging technology, more small nodules located deep in the lungs can be detected.

Robot-assisted bronchoscopy is still under clinical testing, with a goal of completing 1,200 cases worldwide.

The thoracic surgical team of CUHK has also pioneered minimally invasive thoracic surgery techniques in the Asia-Pacific region, including single port video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery for major lung resection.

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