Dr. John de Almeida

Using Robotic Surgery

To Find Hidden Tumours in Head and Neck Cancer Patients

A new clinical trial at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre called FIND* is using a surgeon-driven and operated robotic instrumentation, called the da Vinci robot, to locate previously undetected primary tumours.

In a small percentage of head and neck cancer patients, doctors cannot locate where the primary tumour started. Without being able to find it, patients are treated with large doses of radiation, instead of targeted treatment.

The robot allows doctors to find tumours that may be hiding in the throat, tonsils or on the back of the tongue – areas difficult to access without doing surgery. The procedure reduces the side effects and it also results in fewer resections.

“Either we completely remove it with surgery, or if we don't completely remove it, we can really tailor a small volume of radiation to spare the normal tissues around it,” says Dr. John de Almeida, Head and Neck Surgical Oncologist at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.

With the rising epidemic of throat cancers from the Human papillomavirus (HPV) and an increasing number of tumours hiding in the hills and valleys of the throat, this area of research is an important one.

“We're actually doing really well in terms of what we're seeing and our ability to spare excessive treatments is improving.”

*FIND: Transoral Robotic Surgery and Tailored Radiotherapy in Unknown Primary and Small Squamous Cell Head and Neck Cancer.

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