Major funding secured for ground-breaking Terabotics project at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust

Cancer services at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) NHS Trust are set for a ground-breaking advancement, with major funding secured to develop technology that can detect tumours and guide robots to remove them.

The Terabotics project, which is being led by Professor Emma Pickwell-MacPherson at the University of Warwick, will use probes that use terahertz (THz) radiation, or T-rays, to scan for tumours under the skin.

Medical-grade surgical robots will be adapted to use these scans to guide them in, removing tumours in skin and colorectal cancer patients more precisely.

Starting in September, the intention is to trial the technology at University Hospital, Coventry.

It could lead to real-time diagnosis, shorter waiting periods for operations and more comprehensive removal of tumours with 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 five-year Terabotics project, largely funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, is a collaboration between UHCW NHS Trust, the University of Warwick, University of Leeds and University of Exeter.

Those attending cancer services at University Hospital will be offered the opportunity to participate alongside their routine care. At present, diagnosis of 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.”

There are more than 150,000 new cases of skin cancer in the UK each year, while bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer with about 42,000 new cases annually.

Principal Investigator Professor Emma Pickwell-MacPherson, 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.”


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