Drs. Jaspal Singh, John Doty and their pulmonary colleagues at Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center (CMC), have begun using new bronchoscopic technology that allows accurate diagnosis of early-stage cancer in small peripheral pulmonary nodules.

News, Your Health | one year ago

New Bronchoscopic Technology Allows Greater Accuracy for Early Cancer Detection

Drs. Jaspal Singh, John Doty and their pulmonary colleagues at Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center (CMC), have begun using new bronchoscopic technology that allows accurate diagnosis of early-stage cancer in small peripheral pulmonary nodules. CMC is the first and only hospital system in the Charlotte region to have this technology.

There have been some exciting developments in pulmonary care at Atrium Health CMC, in  collaboration with the lung cancer division at Atrium Health Levine Cancer Institute. Japsal Singh, MD, and John Doty II, MD, pulmonologists who specialize in the care of patients with lung nodules and lung cancer, are co-leading the use of the new bronchoscopic technology called Illumisite from MedTronic Technologies. At this time, CMC is the first and only hospital in the Charlotte region to utilize it.

Atrium Health is nationally ranked by U.S. News World & Report for Cancer Care and is recognized as a thought leader in the space of pulmonology. Drs. Singh and Doty explain the new technology’s benefits and impact on the future of lung cancer treatments.

The Current Situation on Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for men and women, but it often doesn’t get as much attention as other cancer types. According to the Lung Cancer Foundation of America, fewer than 1 in 7 lung cancer patients get a diagnosis at the earliest stage, which is when the disease is most treatable. A staggering average of 135,000 lung cancer deaths per year make this cancer one that deserves more attention and funding.

Dr. Singh also affirms the importance of raising awareness.

“People don’t think about lung cancer as the No. 1 type of killing cancer in the country. But, lung cancer is still a huge killer and in the United States, it surpasses all the other cancers combined. People who have never smoked or had quit smoking many years ago can also get surprised by a diagnosis.”

Atrium Health’s investment in this new technology will make a positive impact on these statistics. It allows earlier detection and more precise diagnoses of cancer types, which can save lives and set up more personalized treatment plans. “With this tool, we can help detect disease earlier, and give patients the best chance at survival and at life,” said Dr. Singh.

What Does the New Technology Offer?

Though a bronchoscopy (the examination of the lungs) and lung nodule biopsy (the extraction of sample cells) have been used in pulmonary medicine for years, this latest technology improves on these methods.

“This tool is actually a 3rd generation version of the technology we’ve already been using, with both equipment and software upgrades. It takes the same minimally invasive biopsy method that has been around for over a decade, but makes it safer and more precise. Now we can go after more challenging cases and still see really good outcomes,” says Dr. Singh.

Dr. Doty shares Dr. Singh’s enthusiasm about the new ways they can help patients through this upgrade.

“This technology allows pulmonologists to target smaller, more peripheral lesions with more accuracy and safety,” he says, “If lung cancer is diagnosed in a small nodule, it is more likely to be early-stage and thus curable with surgery.”

In addition to lung cancer, the technology can detect other pulmonary conditions that are usually difficult to find with older diagnostic tools.

“It’s overall a better and safer way to diagnose lung nodules. Lung nodules may be a sign of cancer, but could also be due to infections, other diseases, or simply scar tissues from other processes. This will also help with infections and diseases that are difficult to elucidate without a tissue biopsy. The lung space can be challenging without such tools,” says Dr. Singh.

Next-Gen Technology Advantages

Dr. Doty and Dr. Singh have enjoyed the upgrades and modern advantages offered by this new technology since introducing it to the hospital, which includes:

  • Minimally Invasive Sample Collection: Biopsies have even fewer risks when patients can get a minimally invasive approach for lung cancer and staging evaluations.
  • Better Visibility: It lines up more accurately the biopsy tool with the lung nodule.\
  • More Responsive Controls: The tools respond to controls in a more precise manner, making operations seamless.
  • Better 3D Imaging: Prior generations of navigational software couldn’t account for the difference between the position of a pulmonary nodule on a diagnostic CT scan versus the position of the nodule when the patient is breathing normally during a bronchoscopic procedure. This technology’s better imaging resolves this old problem.
  • Better Localization: It uses digital fluoroscopy to help locate the nodule. Now lung nodules in typically hard to reach places for old generation technology can be collected with greater ease.
  • Better Guidance: Previously, the guide catheter was the only way to determine proximity to the nodule during the procedure. With the new platform, physicians  have continuous image guidance during the procedure throughout the biopsy process.

And finally, one of the most advantageous benefits is the higher accuracy in diagnosis. “We can increase accuracy in our procedures by 10-15% with no added risk to the patient,” says Dr. Singh.

Goals for the Future

With more advanced technology in their hands, Atrium Health’s care teams are optimistic about the ways their patients can benefit in the future. Dr. Singh is eager to make lung care more precise and tailored to each patient.

“Lung cancer treatment is evolving to become more personalized, safer, and aiming to be cured at an early stage. This is another tool to help a patient obtain a diagnosis while also trying to obtain sufficient tissue to find the right therapy for that patient. With this tool, we are much more confident to guide minimally invasive therapeutics —  and offer a more personalized treatment plan for every patient.”

Dr. Doty says that this new technology is one of many unique offerings that are beneficial to patients needing comprehensive pulmonary care. 

“Atrium Health has taken an advanced approach to preventive lung health including the development of effective smoking cessation programs throughout the system, implementation of a lung cancer screening program which has enrolled over 7000 patients since its inception in 2017, and the development of a new program to track and manage incidentally discovered pulmonary nodules.”

This latest-gen technology is currently available at CMC and coming soon to Atrium Health Pineville and Atrium Health Cabarrus later this year.

Learn more about lung cancer care at Levine Cancer Institute.