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Green Light for Kidney Cancer

January 2014

Two years ago we wrote in Laterlife about kidney disease, eGFR tests and the different stages of the disease. Sadly, kidney cancer is still on the rise; it has risen by 68 per cent in the past two decades and nearly 7,400 Britons a year are now affected by the disease

But the good news is that recently, following ongoing research taking place across the world, some improved methods of treatment have been identified. One new advancement has been developed right here in the UK at St George’s Hospital in London.

In the past, cancer many surgeons felt they had to take away an entire kidney to ensure all the cancerous cells were removed and to reduce the chances of a recurrence of the disease. This is because the extensions of many tumours can be difficult to see with the naked eye and the normal scans, blood and tissue tests can fail to spot the entirety of a cancer. But of course removing a whole kidney brought its own problems to the overall health of the patient.

Now a new breakthrough development using a luminous green dye, robotic arms and 3D vision can help surgeons locate and remove all the cancerous tissue in a kidney with much more accuracy and confidence. Not only can this save the kidney, but it can also ensure no cancer is left in the kidney to spread to other organs.

The procedure has been initiated by Mr. Chris Anderson, a Consultant Urological surgeon at St George’s Hospital. The new technology is called Firefly.

The procedure involved an anaesthetic injecting a special green dye into the patient’s kidney. It takes literally a minute for the dye to travel through the organ.

Then, under general anaesthetic, small incisions are made so that the robotic arms with cameras attached can be inserted. These tiny cameras carry a special fluorescent light which makes the dye glow strongly in both the tissue and the blood vessels. This really lights up the area and shows clearly what is going on. The surgeon can then clamp the blood vessel feeding the cancerous tumour and the remove the vessel and tumour. Generally the light also clearly shows the spread of the cancer from within, so that all the diseased tissue is fully removed.

“It is a simply, effective technique,” says Mr. Anderson. “The first time you use it, it really is an illuminating experience to switch on the fluoroscopic camera and see everything so clearly.”

Surgeons do need to acquire new skills to work with this level of technology, but the new procedure gives such an advance in the operating theatre that this far outweighs the time spend in adapting to the new techniques.

“Firefly with robotics means minimally invasive procedures and faster recovery times,” said Mr. Anderson.  “It is still a very complex operation, but hopefully this new tool gives a definite advantage in treatment.


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The above article is part of the features section of called laterlife interest. laterlife interest contains a variety of articles of interest for visitors to written by a number of experienced and new journalists.

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