AUG 20, 2020 9:42 AM PDT

Should you trust a robot to perform your cancer surgery?

How would you feel about a robot conducting your cancer surgery? According to new research published in JAMA Oncology, it’d be in your own best interest to go with the robot. The study reports that robotic surgery for patients with early-stage, oropharyngeal squamous cell cancer is associated with better long-term survival. Of course, the robot is being guided by a human surgeon, so don’t freak out quite yet.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 70% of oropharyngeal cancers in the United States are caused by the human papilloma virus. Every year in the US, roughly 3,500 new cases of HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancers are diagnosed in women and about 15,500 in men.

During transoral robotic surgery, which is used to cancers in the back of the throat and includes the base of the tongue and tonsils, a surgeon will utilize a computer-enhanced system to guide an endoscope in order to take high-resolution, 3D images of the back of the mouth and throat. During this process, the surgeon’s “arms” are actually two robotically guided instruments that can remove tumors from surrounding tissue.

The retrospective, observational study comes from Cedars-Sinai researchers who used information from the National Cancer Database to track the five-year overall survival rate for patients with early-stage oropharyngeal cancer. They found that patients who elected robotic surgery instead of non-robotic surgery had a 84.5% five-year overall survival rate, compared with 80.3% for the other set of patients.  

"At a minimum, robotic surgery for oropharyngeal cancer patients seems safe and effective compared to what's been the standard of care for many years," said senior and corresponding author Zachary S. Zumsteg, MD, assistant professor of Radiation Oncology at Cedars-Sinai.

"Our purpose in doing this study was to see how this new technology, which has never been tested in a randomized, controlled trial, has influenced patterns of treatment and outcomes since its FDA approval," Zumsteg said. "There is a learning curve with any new surgical technique, and new ones don't always translate into equal or improved outcomes."

Photo: Pixabay

Luckily for cancer patients, though, this technique does translate into measurably improved outcomes. Not only was the five-year overall survival rate for patients higher in patients who received robotic surgery, but robotic surgery was also associated with lower rates of positive surgical margins (meaning fewer cancer cells remained at the edge of the tissue that has been surgically removed) and less use of postoperative chemoradiation as well. Is that enough to convince you? Leave your comments below!

Sources: JAMA Oncology, Eureka Alert

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
JAN 31, 2021
Cancer
Exploring porphyrins as drug delivery agents
JAN 31, 2021
Exploring porphyrins as drug delivery agents
New research published in the journal Scientific Reports analyzes the delivery capabilities of porphyrins in order ...
FEB 09, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Make Tissues Transparent to Spot Hidden Tumors, Let Machines Do the Rest
FEB 09, 2021
Make Tissues Transparent to Spot Hidden Tumors, Let Machines Do the Rest
A clearly defined border differentiates benign tumors from malignant ones. Malignant tumors start to get fuzzy around th ...
FEB 04, 2021
Cancer
Microchip models tumor‐immune interactions to predict immunotherapy effectiveness
FEB 04, 2021
Microchip models tumor‐immune interactions to predict immunotherapy effectiveness
A team from the Terasaki Institute for Biomedical Innovation (TIBI) has developed a microchip system that models immune ...
MAR 22, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Improving Cancer Immunotherapy While Reducing Autoimmune Side Effects
MAR 22, 2021
Improving Cancer Immunotherapy While Reducing Autoimmune Side Effects
Immunotherapy aims to make a patient's immune cells better at fighting cancer. The immune system has to be used carefull ...
APR 15, 2021
Cancer
What should breast cancer treatment in older women look like?
APR 15, 2021
What should breast cancer treatment in older women look like?
A new study published in JAMA Network Open by researchers at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and the University of Pittsburgh ...
MAY 11, 2021
Immunology
Immune Cells Help Brain Tumors Spread, but We Can Stop Them
MAY 11, 2021
Immune Cells Help Brain Tumors Spread, but We Can Stop Them
Researchers have discovered how a glitch in the brain’s immune system can inadvertently cause an accelerated growt ...
Loading Comments...