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A robotics system to eradicate lung cancer will allow live imaging during examination and treatment

The error rate of the existing biopsy tests is 30%. Mistakes that are fatal because the test turns up clay but the cancer exists and continues to spread. Good imaging can improve accuracy

Team-W: Eli-Shapira, CEO and Nadav Paz, robotics team leader, Or Tzarni, bronchoscopy team leader. Photo: Ariel University
Team-W: Eli Shapira, CEO and Nadav Paz, head of the robotics team, Or Tzarni, head of the bronchoscopy team. Photo: Ariel University


Lung cancer is the one that charges the most expensive price compared to other cancers (by a considerable margin). In fact, about 28% of all cancer deaths are the result of lung cancer and every year more than 2.2 million cases of lung cancer are diagnosed in the world.

The difficult fight against lung cancer requires precision, efficiency, and early detection. The beginning of any treatment starts with taking a sample from the suspicious area (biopsy) and examining it, but here lies the problem: an error rate of 30%. Mistakes that are fatal because the test turns up clay but the cancer exists and continues to spread.

Companies all over the world are trying to find a solution, but even methods of precise electromagnetic navigation in the lungs, sophisticated optical fibers and even electromechanical bronchoscopes present a disappointing and dangerous error rate of 30%.

"Our journey began when we saw the limitations of current techniques and realized the potential of merging robotics and real-time imaging. This synergy and the friendship between us, says Dr. Oded Medina, and Prof. Nir Shavalev - founders of the company and faculty members at Ariel University, gave birth to W-Endoluminal-Robotics. The solution we offer is a real departure from the box that this vast field has been in for years."

The working principle of W. Photo: Ariel University
The working principle of W. Photo: Ariel University

"The problem lies in the lack of real-time imaging during these procedures. Currently, pulmonologists thread an ultrasound transducer into this tight space, but due to the very limited space in the bronchi (diameter 1-2 mm), during the sampling phase the doctors are forced to pull out the imaging device in order to insert the biopsy tool or the treatment tool in its place , and in fact the operation itself is performed completely blindly."

"Our solution is simple and cheeky," says Eli Shapira, the company's CEO and founder. The company presents a pair of robotic bronchoscopes (instrument for performing examination and treatment of the respiratory tract). One provides real-time visualization on the other. We insert each of the bronchoscopes through a different airway and thus solve the issue of lack of space. A first bronchoscope equipped with a biopsy or treatment device is threaded into the first airway, and a second bronchoscope equipped with an ultrasound transducer is threaded into a second airway and serves as a camera crew for the first bronchoscope. It sounds simple but the challenges were substantial. We had to engineer a robotic system completely different from those that exist today. Such a system, which can maneuver through the complex pathways of the lungs, provide live imaging and at the same time be strong enough to contain rigid tools and all without damaging the delicate tissue of the lungs. This required interdisciplinary collaboration at its best, and collaborations with the world's leading doctors in the field, which is all fun [he adds with a smile]. In the meantime, our experience is that we hit a bull's eye - the medical community is responding enthusiastically because real-time imaging is a game changer."

Experiments conducted so far have indicated a 95% success rate, and the robot is expected to be used in operating rooms at the beginning of 2025. We can only hope that performing a biopsy or providing treatment with full visibility will not only increase the success rate in biopsy and treatment and finally open a new era of lung cancer treatment.

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