The University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) NHS Trust, has secured major funding to develop technology that detects tumours, and guides robots to remove them.
The five-year Terabotics project, will use probes with terahertz (THz) radiation, or T-rays, to scan for tumours under the skin. In order to remove the tumours for skin and colorectal cancer patients more precisely – medical-grade surgical robots will be adapted using the scans to guide them.
The technology will be trialled in September at the UHCW. There are hopes that this could lead to real-time diagnosis, shorter waiting times for operations, and more comprehensive removal of tumours, with a reduced need for follow-up surgery.
Dr Joseph Hardwicke, Innovation Lead at UHCW, said: “It is great to have been awarded this money to allow us to develop an exciting new area of diagnostics and improve the care we provide for the coming generation.”
The project is a collaboration between the UHCW, the University of Warwick, the University of Leeds and the University of Exeter.
Patients receiving cancer care at the UHCW will be given the option to participate alongside their routine care. The current diagnosis for skin cancer relies upon a visual inspection by a clinician and a biopsy.
Dr Hardwicke added: "This is a whole new area of diagnostics, like how MRI in the 1980s revolutionised medical imaging.
“The main hope, especially for skin cancer, is to determine the extent of the spread locally and also to potentially diagnose these cancers without the need for a biopsy.
“This novel application of existing technologies from industry may allow us to more quickly diagnose cancers and bring more efficient and effective treatments.”
Principal Investigator Professor Emma Pickwell-MacPherson, at the University of Warwick. added: “Somebody might already be diagnosed with cancer but the actual extent of that cancer may not be known.
“For example, in skin cancer patients, the THz probe will image the visible tumour and the surrounding area to better determine the extent of the tumour that is beneath the surface.
“This will enable the whole tumour to be removed in one go, rather than incrementally. In turn, this enables better planning for reconstruction and speeds up the procedure.”