New Robot Streamlines Lung Cancer Detection

First in the region to offer the Ion robotic-assisted bronchoscopy

Albany Medical Center, a member of the Albany Med Health System, is the first hospital in the region to offer a minimally invasive option for earlier detection and treatment of lung cancer.

The Intuitive Ion Endoluminal System enables lung specialists to obtain tissue samples from deep within the lung, addressing a challenging aspect of lung biopsy.

When a suspicious lung nodule is detected, the Ion generates a 3D map of the patient’s lungs using a CT scan and identifies the safest and most efficient route through the lung to the nodule or mass. Once the path is determined, a bronchoscopy is performed through the mouth using the system’s ultra-thin, ultra-maneuverable catheter to reach the lung nodule or mass, where it is biopsied. The Ion is also able to move through tight spaces and narrow airways to reach peripheral pulmonary nodules.

If the biopsied samples reveal an early-stage cancer, surgery can be scheduled immediately, in most cases eliminating the need for radiation or chemotherapy treatment.

“This is the future of lung cancer diagnosis,” said Nagendra Madisi, MD, director of interventional pulmonology in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine and assistant professor of medicine at Albany Medical College. “Early diagnosis, when lesions are much smaller, means treatment can begin earlier. Removing the nodules completely – rather than treating with radiation or chemotherapy – leads to better outcomes.”

Thoracic surgeon Brian Arnold, MD, assistant professor of surgery at Albany Medical College, said, “This technology allows us to obtain a faster and more accurate diagnosis for patients with lung nodules that are suspicious for lung cancer, with less risk to the patient than CT-guided biopsy or surgery. Then, if the nodule is found to be malignant, we can perform staging procedures at the same time. When we catch the cancer early, we can treat it early.”

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths because many cancers are found at a later stage, according to the American Lung Association. More than 237,000 Americans will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year. Forty-four percent of those cases are diagnosed at a later stage when survival rate is only seven percent. November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month.

More than 20 cases have been performed since September.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 518-262-5196 (interventional pulmonology) or 518-262-5864 (thoracic surgery).