New creation hope for stomach cancer

New creation hope for stomach cancer

New creation hope for stomach cancer

A master and slave transluminal endoscopic robot is seen against a hand of a man at a lab. REUTERS Photo

Inspired by Singapore’s famous chilli crab dish, researchers have created a miniature robot with a pincer and a hook that can remove early-stage stomach cancers without leaving any scars. Mounted on an endoscope, it enters the patient’s gut through the mouth. It has a pincer to hold cancerous tissues, and a hook that slices them off and coagulates blood to stop bleeding.

With the help of a tiny camera attached to the endoscope, the surgeon sees what’s inside the gut and controls the robotic arms remotely while sitting in front of a monitor screen.

“Our movements are very huge and if you want to make very fine movements, your hands will tremble ... But robots can execute very fine movements without trembling,” said enterologist Lawrence Ho, who helped design the robot. Professor Ho, who works at Singapore’s National University Hospital, said the robot helped remove early-stage stomach cancers in five patients in India and Hong Kong, using a fraction of the time normally taken in open and keyhole surgeries that put patients at higher risk of infection and leave behind scars.

Stomach, or gastric, cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide and is particularly common in east Asia. Diagnosis of gastric cancer usually occurs at a late stage of the disease when treatment is difficult and often unsuccessful.

Louis Phee, associate professor at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, helped design the robot with Ho. They developed the robot after a seafood dinner in Singapore in 2004 with top Hong Kong surgeon Sydney Chung, who suggested they fashioned their device after the crab. They hope to make the robot commercially available in three years.

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