NHS clinicians at the Royal Brompton Hospital and St Bartholomew’s Hospital have carried out robotic-assisted lung biopsies for the first time in the UK, as part of a clinical study exploring how the system could benefit patients.
The Ion Endoluminal System (Ion) from Intuitive is a robotic-assisted bronchoscopy system that has the potential to improve precision when taking tissue biopsies of lung nodules, helping to transform early diagnosis of suspected lung cancer.
It is able to navigate to and sample small, early-stage nodules in areas of the lung that would otherwise be unreachable. By using unique shape-sensing technology and robotic-assistance it enables clinicians to access hard-to-reach areas and remove tissue with greater precision and accuracy.
Not only can it lead to an earlier diagnosis for patients – which means a better chance of survival – but the minimally invasive approach means less risk for patients compared to some existing biopsy techniques.
Royal Brompton Hospital and St Bartholomew’s Hospital will both recruit approximately 50 patients as part of the clinical study.
Mr Kelvin Lau, consultant thoracic surgeon for St Bartholomew’s Hospital, said: “Current biopsy techniques carry risk and are not always accurate, and many patients end up waiting for a repeat scan. The uncertainty of the wait causes anxiety and could allow a cancer to grow and spread.
“With this shape-sensing robotic technology, I have the precision and stability to lock onto a very small lung nodule and obtain an accurate biopsy quickly and safely. This could transform early diagnosis and treatment, reduce the need for repeat scans and treat lung cancer earlier.”
The UK is set to roll out a national lung cancer screening programme, and improving the early diagnosis of cancers is a top priority. In May this year, the LIBRA study, led by The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, determined that artificial intelligence (AI) could help doctors diagnose lung cancers earlier.
Intuitive has already installed over 400 Ion systems across the US, and now hopes to continue expanding its presence in the UK and across Europe.
Dr Oliver Wagner, vice president and medical officer of Endoluminal at Intuitive said: “Lung cancer represents a worldwide health crisis, characterised by distressing survival rates, even after surgical intervention. Within Europe, the UK has emerged as a pioneering force in transforming the clinical outcomes for individuals diagnosed with lung cancer.
“We are in full support of early nodule lung detection and diagnosis and our aim is to bring about a positive transformation in the care pathways for lung cancer, ultimately leading to improved prognosis and well-being of patients.”