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January 19, 2024 | 3 minute read

What is Robotic Surgery? Innovations in Cancer Care

Key Takeaways:

  • Innovative robotic surgery and radiopharmaceutical medications are helping with cancer survivorship.
  • Robotic surgery has many advantages, including a lower risk of post-op infection, faster recovery and less pain than traditional surgeries.
  • Radiopharmaceuticals carry radiation straight to cancer cells, causing less damage to “innocent” cells and fewer side effects than traditional radiation.

Cancer care is constantly evolving thanks to emerging research. Innovative surgical procedures and advanced drugs are prolonging life, minimizing side effects and helping with cancer survivorship.

Here are some new technologies worth knowing about.

What is Robotic Surgery?

Robotic surgery uses advanced technology during minimally invasive surgery, such as laparoscopic surgery. The technology allows robotic arms to direct surgical instruments to perform parts of the surgery. The procedure is not all done by a robot. A doctor is still in charge and undergoes training to use the technology.

With robotic surgery, a thin tube using three-dimensional (3D) visualization passes through small incisions. It magnifies the view of the targeted area of the procedure. The robotic arms and small, precise instruments work without making a large cut, so the surgery is confined to only the necessary area.

Five benefits of robotic surgery:

  1. It requires smaller incisions, which reduces scars.
  2. There is less intraoperative blood loss.
  3. The risk of infection is lower.
  4. Patients recover faster and have less pain.
  5. Patients require less in hospital recovery time. 

Robotic Surgery in Cancer Care

Robotic surgery has revolutionized cancer treatment. Cancer patients heal faster and start other therapies, like chemotherapy, without the long healing times of regular surgery. Robotic surgery already has a role in these cancers:

  • Lung
  • Kidney
  • Pancreatic
  • Prostate
  • Esophageal
  • Cervical
  • Colon

What are Radiopharmaceuticals?

Radiopharmaceuticals are drugs that carry radiation straight to a cancer cell; they find and destroy cancer. They work at the cellular level by attacking the cancer cell from the inside or by sticking to it. This process reduces the collateral damage to “innocent” tissues compared to conventional external beam radiation, which has more side effects.

Radiopharmaceuticals are being used for:

  • Liver tumors: Yttrium-90 (90Y), or selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT), uses radiation beads delivered directly into the tumor through a catheter under image guidance.
  • Neuroendocrine tumors (NET): Lutetium Lu 177 is an infused radiopharmaceutical used to shrink and control tumor growth for this type of cancer of the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Prostate cancer: A new radiopharmaceutical that targets PSMA, a protein found in prostate cancer cells, is available for advanced prostate cancer. Infused into the bloodstream, it delivers targeted radiation to kill cancer cells that have spread in the body.

The Future of Both Treatments

Robotic surgery and radiopharmaceuticals are innovative cancer treatments that continue to increase in use and demand. Both have promising futures in cancer care. Ongoing clinical trials are looking at other cancers that doctors can treat with robotic surgery. Likewise, trials are looking at new drugs and new combinations of treatments with radiopharmaceuticals.

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