Do you remember the 1966 movie, Fantastic Voyage? It was a science fiction adventure film about a submarine crew shrunk to microscopic size who ventures into the body of an injured scientist to repair damage to his brain.
Today, that movie would still be considered science fiction; but in the medical field, they have come close to having a similar technology. Robotic navigational bronchoscopy has become a reality that is enabling doctors to “navigate” into the human lung to diagnose lung cancer sooner and begin treatment earlier.
This robotic method that can advance deeper into the lung without the risk of the possible damage of a CT-guided needle biopsy was introduced at the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, N.Y. And it was a local Bradford County woman who was the first person to have this procedure done there.
In 2017, a small mass was discovered in Pat Anthony’s lung. She was told it had to be watched. In the spring of 2020 she was swimming with a friend and told her of her lung condition. Her friend shared her experience with a lung condition called “ground glass opacity.”
She advised Pat to take care of the mass right away.
“I knew before I went that it was cancerous,” said Pat, who had won the battle against two cancers previously.
Pat went to Dr. Husband in Troy.
“Dr. Husband is super,” said Pat. “He told me we’d get right on it and made me an appointment with Dr. Loewen right away.”
At the Arnot Ogden Medical Center, Dr. Loewen, a pulmonologist, did an imaging of her lung and sure enough he discovered that “ground glass opacity” was present.
Pat was given three choices: she could do nothing for a few years; she could have a tissue biopsy done at the Arnot; or she could have a navigational bronchoscopy at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, N.Y.
Pat chose the last one.
“At first I wanted to stay in Elmira,” said Pat. “The family talked it over and thought it was the best choice.”
Pat and her husband Jerry Anthony don’t like to travel much, but family members all helped out getting them back and forth between their home in Ridgebury Township and Buffalo.
“I wanted her to get better,” said Jerry.
“Jerry had been with me through all three cancers,” said Pat.
Dr. Loewen made Pat an appointment for her bronchoscopy at Roswell Park for mid-June. It was then that Pat met the new Monarch Robot. In fact, it was a very special meeting because Pat was the Monarch Robot’s first patient at Roswell Park.
“I loved it,” said Pat. “I’m a retired LPN and I love anything medical. It was shiny with white chrome and about three feet tall.”
The “Monarch” combines the latest in robotics, computer navigation and three-dimensional imaging. It provides superior vision, control and precision as it uses a controller to guide its bronchoscope. It has two screens. On one screen the interventional pulmonologist can see the area targeted for biopsy. On the other, a magnified three-dimensional image shows what the camera sees as it travels through the lungs and passageways. If any areas of concern show up, the “Monarch” is equipped to biopsy during that same procedure.
CT scans are still done to initially look for signs of lung cancer. But the beauty of the “Monarch” is that it is able to do the biopsy without the risk of excessive bleeding or lung collapse. Prior to its development, using a CT-guided needle biopsy would have to pass through a great deal of normal lung tissue, which was risky.
“It could go where no one else has gone before,” said Pat. “Other methods might not have even picked it up.”
It was Dr. Sai Yendamuri, chair of the Thoracic Surgery at Roswell Park, who was the key motivator to bring the “Monarch” to his facility. His goal was to increase lung cancer diagnoses and identifications to 77% at stage one, rather than during late stages. He thought there would be a far better chance of a cure.
Dr. Nathaniel Ivanick, MD, an Interventional Pulmonologist in the Department of Thoracic Surgery, performed the “Monarch” procedure on Pat.
“I had my results before I even left the hospital,” said Pat. “And it was malignant. It was adenocarcinoma.”
Thanks to the result of the “Monarch” Pat followed up with five successful radiation treatments. Now, she is looking forward to spring and getting into her garden.
Pat and her family are grateful for the “Monarch” and all the donors who made it possible for it to be at Roswell Park.
“Thank you, thank you,” said Pat. “It’s amazing that you’re giving so people can have this lifesaving machine.”
And, as the naturally helpful nurse that she will always be, Pat wants to see others have the same success story as hers. According to Pat, cancer tends to send that “helpless” message, but she says to “pay attention to your body.”
“I was excited to be the first; to be able to help other people in the future,” said Pat Anthony. “God gives us opportunities, and it’s up to us to make the decision to use them or forget about them.”