THOMASVILLE -- Physicians at Archbold Medical Center are being recognized as the first in Georgia, and second worldwide, to surgically treat lung cancer using mesh brachytherapy and the daVinci Surgical System.
Archbold general and thoracic surgeon Dr. Edward Hall and radiation oncologist Dr. Steven Johnson of Archbold's Lewis Hall Singletary Oncology Center performed the state's first implant last month of Cesium-131 mesh brachytherapy in an early-stage lung cancer patient using the daVinci robotics system.
Officials say the technique offers a less radical surgical treatment for a large group of patients, which until now had limited hope of finding a cure for their disease.
"Archbold doctors now have another aggressive, effective treatment option for patients -- one that has a direct impact on patient survivability that comes with improved quality of life," said Dwight Babcock, CEO of Isoray Medical, the manufacturer of Cesium-131. "Archbold physicians marked several milestones with this procedure, representing another crucial leap forward in cancer treatment.
"The importance of this new development cannot be overstated."
For many patients with early-stage lung cancer, treatment options are limited. Poor pulmonary function and other health problems have historically prevented such patients from undergoing major surgery. Traditional surgery options such as "open" surgery are performed through a large incision, and involve splitting muscles and actually spreading the patient's ribs in order to remove cancerous lung tissue.
While minimally-invasive surgery provides significant advantages over open surgery, the advantages are even greater when lung surgery is performed using daVinci, officials say.
"Robotic surgery is a viable surgical option that allows us to offer treatment to patients who otherwise would be left without feasible treatment options," said Hall. "DaVinci's high-definition 3-D vision system provides a highly accurate, increased level of depth perception. The dexterity of the robotic arms enables us to perform complex surgical maneuvers easier. Using daVinci we can actually remove tumors in patients who otherwise would've been denied surgical treatment."
Surgery with daVinci means very little muscle will be cut and that the rib cage does not need to be spread. As a result, patients experience minimally-invasive surgical advantages such as reduced length of stay in the hospital, less pain and quicker recoveries.
Radiation treatment can be performed two ways: internally or externally. With external beam radiation, the radiation is aimed only at a specific part of the patient's body. Most patients get external beam radiation therapy once a day for five days a week.
Depending on the type of cancer, treatment can last from two to 10 weeks.
Internal radiation, also known as brachytherapy, is a type of radiation therapy in which radioactive material sealed in needles, seeds, wires or catheters is placed directly into or near a tumor. Depending on the type of implant a patient receives, the radiation source may stay in place for minutes, hours or days.
Experts say that mesh brachytherapy, the newest form of targeted radiation delivered via the robotic surgical approach, offers promising treatment options for patients with any type of tumor in close margin to the chest or abdomen, historically considered to be inoperable areas.
The goal of brachytherapy is to directly target radiation exposure to the tumor from inside the body, where it is most needed. The new technique allows the surgeon to place the radioactive source directly on cancer tissues, further reducing radiation exposure for physicians and adding a new level of safety for patients.
"With mesh brachytherapy, patients benefit from getting the most targeted radiation possible, which decreases the chance of the cancer recurring and decreases the amount of potential lung damage," said Johnson.
Once the tumor is surgically removed from the patient's lung, a piece of fine moldable cloth embedded with Cesium-131 -- an isotope of Cesium -- is applied to the suture line.
"Archbold has an outstanding reputation for being early with technology," said Johnson. "This is another state-of-the art tool that complements our existing services, including advanced forms of radiation therapy, such as Archbold's Gamma Knife, the only non-invasive brain surgery technology of its kind south of Augusta, and Trilogy, Archbold's newest linear accelerator that treats tumors of the body with similar precision to that of the Gamma Knife. This is another example of how cutting edge Archbold is.
"Our physicians are innovators. We are interested in taking patient care to the next level."
In the next few weeks, surgeons expect to be able to use the technology for other cases.
"Doctors say they will be able to use it in the pelvic and abdominal regions," said Megan Powell, public relations manager at the hospital. "Everybody has this technology now. It is what we are doing with it (that is key)."