By Kathleen Berger, Executive Producer for Science and Technology
Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis is excited about offering an advancement in lung cancer detection.
“It is the newest modality and platform of bronchoscopy which is robotic bronchoscopy,” said Praveen Raju Chenna, MD, Interventional Pulmonologist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Barnes Jewish Hospital.
The new technology aside, a bronchoscopy is nothing new.
“Taking a camera into the airways and examining the lung,” explained Chenna.
But this latest robotic advancement offers improvements.
“We’re the first in the area, definitely here in St. Louis to have it,” Chenna said.
Interventional pulmonologists at Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine now have this greater ability to get tissue biopsies to test for cancer through this latest robotic platform.
“It is a device that has been developed to improve the ability of pulmonologist and surgeons to diagnose lung nodules. Those are spots that people have been identified with on an X-ray or a CAT scan,” said Alexander Chen, MD, Interventional Pulmonologist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Barnes Jewish Hospital.
Chen and his team of interventional pulmonologists played a role in the development of the new robotic technology. He said it was several years in the making.
“Our group has been involved with the idea and the development and some of the research that’s been developed, bringing this technology to the public,” said Chen.
The instrument is designed to target previously hard to reach areas of the lungs. The robotic bronchoscopy has a special scope, giving doctors new ways to bend and create new angles for finding lung nodules. The technology allows for accessibility to those spots on the lungs with precision.
“You’re using a joystick/wheel, right? Almost like a video game device to sort of maneuver this, but it’s very smooth,” said Chenna. “The robotic platform has really come a long way. How much feedback I am getting as I use it, I get a sense of what’s happening digitally.”
The technology allows for accessibility to those spots on the lungs with precision.
“Synchronize the patient’s live anatomy with the preloaded CT scan. So, the robotic bronchoscope uses shape sensing technology, which continuously learns where it is in space. It will help me navigate out to that nodule that was seen on the CT scan,” said Nathaniel Moulton, MD, Interventional Pulmonologist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Barnes Jewish Hospital.
“Get to harder to reach locations, smaller abnormalities in the lung, or be able to do more in the airway,” said Chenna.
“As I approach the nodule, it will tell me how far I am away within millimeters,” said Moulton.
Once the nodule of concern is reached, the team would move forward with the tissue biopsy procedure. The robotic bronchoscopy is also assisting surgeons with tumor removal.
“We can actually leave a marker in place that allows a surgeon to locate that during surgery. In some instances, those procedures can be combined into one setting,” said Chen. “One of the things that we’re most excited about is it gives us another option, another tool to help us diagnose early-stage lung cancers. The majority of patients who come to us with a lung cancer diagnosis do so at a later stage, where the prognosis is not quite as good and the treatment options are limited. If we’re able to catch more of these lung nodules in the early stage and make a diagnosis, we can potentially offer them some type of curative therapy where they have the best chance at long healthy lives.”
At Siteman Cancer Center, the doctors say they are excited about how the technology can help create opportunities for patients.
“This is just one part of that patient’s journey,” explained Chenna. “How can we screen you? How can we get you diagnosis? And then once you get a diagnosis, where do you need to go? Well, do you need to see an oncologist or radiation oncologist? Do you need go to surgery? And we have the ability and that we’re all integrated, so we have all those resources to really make that timeframe really short for our patients.”