Robot a new weapon against prostate cancer


The European Union-funded prototype for the robot is expected to be ready within five years to help combat prostate cancer.

UK scientists are developing a robot as the new “weapon of choice” to detect and treat the most common cancer in men.

The 3.3 million pound ($A6.1 million) project, involving computer experts from the University of Portsmouth, has been described as a “potentially game-changing” way of improving the accuracy of prostate cancer biopsies and brachytherapy – a treatment for some forms of the disease.

The European Union-funded prototype is expected to be ready within five years to help combat prostate cancer.

Brachytherapy involves “planting” radioactive seeds the size and shape of rice grains into the prostate, located below a man’s bladder, where they destroy cancer cells by giving out a steady dose of radiation over months.

The new treatment will allow more accurate placement of the radioactive material. This would mean less invasive treatment and less harm being done to surrounding healthy tissue.

Professors Dylan Jones and Ashraf Labib, both at the University of Portsmouth, will provide logistical modelling and artificial intelligence computing to help create the new robotic treatment.

“Prostate cancer was chosen for the development of this radical new treatment solution because it’s such a common cancer and where it is in the body lends itself to the use of robotics,” Prof Jones said.

“There are particular challenges in delivering brachytherapy – it’s not the only treatment for prostate cancer, but it’s a good option for treatment for many patients.

“This development will, we hope, allow medics and scientists to come up with a treatment plan that is much more focused on the individual and the ‘map’ of their particular cancer.

“It will mean fewer needles need to be used, the treatment will be less invasive, and it will be much more accurate, giving medics superb precision.

“The same tools could later be used to treat cancers of the head and neck as well as performing biopsies for cancer detection.”

The research project is called CoBra and involves robot-design experts in France, a steerable flexible needle developed in the Netherlands and clinical scientists at the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth.


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