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Surgical robots could revolutionize cancer treatment

Posted on the 29th August 2023

Robot Cancer Treatment

Researchers at the University of Leeds have created a groundbreaking tiny robot that could transform how we detect and treat cancer in the lungs.

The invention, measuring just 2 millimeters in diameter, is controlled by magnets and can navigate deep into the bronchial tubes to identify and address early signs of lung cancer.

The robot's potential for a more precise and less invasive treatment approach holds great promise and was developed by a collaborative effort between engineers, scientists, and clinicians at the STORM Lab in Leeds.

In tests conducted on a cadaver's lungs, the magnetic tentacle robot outperformed standard equipment by traveling 37 per cent deeper, resulting in less damage to surrounding tissues. These significant findings have been documented in Engineering Communications.

Professor Pietro Valdastri, Director of the STORM Lab, expressed enthusiasm for this breakthrough, highlighting its potential to transform internal navigation within the body due to its specificity to anatomy, softness, and magnetic controllability.

Lung cancer holds the highest global cancer mortality rate, making early-stage diagnosis crucial.

Current surgical interventions for early-stage non-small cell lung cancer are often highly invasive, causing substantial tissue removal and potential lung function impact. To address these challenges, lung cancer screening initiatives have underscored the necessity for less invasive diagnostic and treatment approaches.

Beyond enhancing lung biopsies, the magnetic tentacle robot's capabilities could enable significantly less invasive treatments. This innovation could enable clinicians to target malignant cells while sparing healthy tissue and organs, preserving normal functionality.

Dr. Giovanni Pittiglio, co-author of the report, emphasized the aim of providing effective assistance with minimal patient discomfort. Remote magnetic control allowed the team to develop ultra-soft tentacles that reach greater depths, conform to anatomy, and minimize trauma.

With promising results in hand, the team is now preparing to gather the necessary data to initiate human trials, marking a significant step toward revolutionizing cancer treatment.

Related: Pill halves risk of lung cancer death

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