Robotic Mesothelioma Surgery May Revolutionize Treatment

With Dr. Jocelyn Chapman from UCSF, Steven Kazan holds the tiny rubber band in the palm of his hand that he tied together during a skills simulation exercise with the da Vinci guided by Dr. Chapman.

Breakthroughs in mesothelioma treatment are happening with record speed and frequency. One of the United States’ top medical schools wants to move medical research forward even faster. The University of California San Francisco (UCSF) has launched an ambitious fundraising campaign to spur innovation in medicine across a range of disciplines and diseases. One of the beneficiaries of this fundraising is likely to be robotic mesothelioma surgery.

Steven Kazan, founding partner at Kazan Law, attended laboratory tours during a recent event for the UCSF fundraising campaign. The Kazan McClain Partners’ Foundation is a long-term contributor to this outstanding research institution, which has helped many mesothelioma patients.

Basics of Mesothelioma Surgery

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that forms in the mesothelium or lining around various organs. It is caused by exposure to asbestos. The most common form is pleural mesothelioma, which affects the lining around the lungs or the pleura. More than 75% of mesothelioma patients have the pleural form of the disease.

The two most common types of mesothelioma surgery are extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) and pleurectomy/decortication (P/D). These surgeries are for patients with pleural mesothelioma. EPP removes the pleura plus the lung affected by the mesothelioma cancer. P/D removes the pleura and as many cancerous cells as possible, but leaves the patient with both lungs.

In recent years, mesothelioma doctors have gravitated toward P/D and away from EPP. The loss of a lung can place a lot of stress on the system and many patients have had a hard time recovering from the surgery. Robotic mesothelioma surgery might change that.

What is Robotic Mesothelioma Surgery?

Robotic mesothelioma surgery is a bit of a misnomer. Although there are a small number of robots programmed to complete surgical procedures without human direction, most of the estimated 200,000 robotic surgery devices in use around the US are actually a collaboration of human surgeon and machine.

During robot-assisted surgery, the surgeon can be in a separate room operating the robot. In the operating theater, the robot responds to the surgeon’s touch and performs incisions and surgical maneuvers as directed.

The most common of these devices, the da Vinci Surgical System, created by Intuitive Surgical, requires extensive training. Once a surgeon is comfortable with the device, the robot-assist offers several advantages for patients.

The robot fingers are smaller than human hands, so they can more easily get into tight spaces. Robotic mesothelioma surgery could open the possibility of surgical mesothelioma treatment for patients whose tumors are in hard to reach spots.

robotic mesothelioma surgery
Steven Kazan receives an orientation on the da Vinci xi Surgical System from Kristen Cooke of Intuitive Surgical’s da Vinci marketing and training group.

The surgical robot is able to close blood vessels more quickly than human hands can, so patients experience less bleeding during surgery. Because of this, robotic mesothelioma surgery may reduce the impact of blood loss. Blood loss and transfusions take a toll on your body and can make the recovery process longer. This is one of the reasons that EPP surgery is so hard on patients. Robotic mesothelioma surgery could reduce the physical stress of EPP.

The robotic mesothelioma surgery also has a steady arm that corrects for any tremors in the surgeon’s hands. It never slips. The surgeon can sit during long procedures, which may reduce fatigue. During very long surgeries, teams of surgeons can rotate in and out of the controls while the robotic arms never take a break.

Robotic arms can correct their motions to allow for the beating of the human heart. This is a huge advance in heart surgery (and perhaps for pericardial mesothelioma surgery as well), because it means doctors don’t have to stop your heart temporarily to perform the surgery (a common practice in open heart surgery).

The alliance of machine and surgeon can cross geographic boundaries as well. In 2001, a surgical team in New York used a robot to perform surgery on a patient in France. With robotic mesothelioma surgery, patients could receive potentially remote treatment from a mesothelioma specialist surgeon in another city.

The future of robotic mesothelioma remains to be written. The da Vinci Surgery System is expensive, so not every hospital can afford one. Different models of robotic surgery are under development, however, which could bring down the price and make this life-saving technology available to more mesothelioma patients.

The Campaign to Raise Funds for Innovations Like Robotic Mesothelioma Surgery

Robotic mesothelioma surgery is just one of the innovations that may come from an ambitious fundraising campaign at UCSF. UCSF: The Campaign seeks to bring in $5 billion in funding. The medical school has already raised $3 billion, so it is more than halfway there.

The money will be dedicated to research on three “Grand Challenges” of modern medicine.

  • Decoding life to improve health: UCSF researchers will start by unlocking the secrets of how the body works at the molecular level. Advances in this area have provided the foundation for mesothelioma immunology treatments that have helped many mesothelioma patients.
  • Leveraging discovery to revolutionize care: UCSF aims to use strategic partnerships and new technology to speed up the development of innovative treatments. Mesothelioma patients don’t have time to wait for a decade or more before a new and better treatment is available – they need help now.
  • Partnering to achieve health equity: A key principle of The Campaign is to make sure that the treatments UCSF develops are shared widely in the medical community. The university will devote significant resources to reducing inequities in medical care, so the best treatments are available to everyone.

With the funds already raised, there are numerous projects underway. UCSF’s research commitment ensures that there will be more exciting advances in treatments like robotic mesothelioma surgery in the future.

UCSF Doctor Pioneer in Robotic Mesothelioma Surgery

One of the luminaries present at a recent fundraiser for The Campaign was Dr. Jocelyn Chapman, an assistant professor at UCSF who specializes in gynecologic oncology – cancers of the female reproductive system. She has a newer specialty too: robotic surgery. She has used robotic assistance to perform numerous surgeries on women with gynecological cancer.

Dr. Chapman’s skills with the da Vinci Surgical System make her a valuable resource for mesothelioma patients. The machine has been useful in surgeries on high-risk or late stage patients who might not qualify for surgery otherwise. Her surgical talents give UCSF the potential to offer robotic surgery for peritoneal mesothelioma patients.

Kazan McClain Partners’ Foundation Helps Advance Mesothelioma Treatment

Every contribution to mesothelioma research makes a difference. The Kazan McClain Partners’ Foundation donates to institutions that improve the lives of mesothelioma patients. They are very proud of their support of UCSF, a medical school and teaching hospital that provides top notch care for mesothelioma patients.

With the funding from The Campaign, UCSF increases its commitment to innovative medical care. That’s exactly what mesothelioma patients need.

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Amir Hussain

Amir Hussain is the founder of Freemium World, a geek by nature and a professional Blog writer . I love to write about new technology trends, social media, hacking, blogging and much more.

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