Pioneering surgical robot donated and UK's first cross-speciality Robotic Fellowship launched

The Royal Marsden has become the first hospital in England to get the newest model of the da Vinci surgical system which is used in the pioneering treatment of cancer patients.

29 January 2015

The hospital's second revolutionary da Vinci surgical system (the da Vinci Xi), a robot that makes it possible for surgeons to make microscopic incisions with greater accuracy and control than ever before, has been donated by supporters of The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity through philanthropist Don McCarthy and his children, Hannah and John.

The system allows surgeons to use the latest advances in technology to cut and manipulate tissue without the need for open surgery. This reduces the pain and blood loss that is often caused by open surgery and minimises the patient's hospital stay and recovery time.

Don McCarthy, whose wife Diane was treated at The Royal Marsden for bowel cancer and passed away in 2007, said of the family's donation: "The Royal Marsden provided an excellent standard of care when my wife Diane was ill and it is really important to us to give something back. It's great to know that our donation has gone towards some really exciting technology that will hugely benefit patients. Donating to such a wonderful cause is a fantastic way of ensuring the legacy of my late wife lives on and helps others in some way."

This generous gift continues Mr McCarthy's link with the hospital following a £1 million donation in May 2008, which helped to build the Diane McCarthy Medical Day Unit in Chelsea. In 2010, he helped The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity become House of Fraser's Charity of the Year. This partnership raised £680,000 towards the Oak Centre for Children and Young People.

Robotic fellowship

The new da Vinci robot will be supported by a new robotic fellowship, exclusive to The Royal Marsden and the first of its kind in the UK, which could train up to 30 multi-disciplinary surgeons of the future in robotic surgery over the next 10 years. The da Vinci's dual console facilitates this exclusive training and will allow trainee involvement on actual operations from day one, with complete patient safety. These surgeons will be trained in advanced techniques to deal with tumours that have spread into multiple organs.

The da Vinci robot was first used at The Royal Marsden in 2007 to treat prostate cancer patients at The Royal Marsden and since then it has been rolled out to over 20 trusts across the country. Since its introduction into the hospital it has been used to treat well over 1000 patients.

The da Vinci Xi is a newer, more modern model and its robotic arms can move independently of the main body of the robot. This feature facilitates operating on multiple areas of the body; this is often required when dealing with advanced cancers.

The surgical team will use da Vinci's extended vision, higher magnification and 3D imagery to give them greater precision in their work. The robot provides the surgeon with a magnified, three-dimensional view inside a patient's body and the computerised arms of the robot, which can grip scissors and other instruments, are manipulated by the movement of the surgeon's fingers or wrists. It is also often necessary for different areas of the body to be accessed to remove cancers completely. The new da Vinci Xi has an advantage over previous versions of the robot in that it can move around the body easily, minimising operating time for the benefit of the patient.

Professor Martin Gore, Medical Director at The Royal Marsden said: "It is thanks to generous donors such as the McCarthy family that we can continue to be at the forefront of cancer treatment and research. It is fantastic to have an even more technologically advanced robotic surgical system as the da Vinci Xi at The Royal Marsden and we continue to be one of the largest providers of robotic surgical procedures for prostate cancer in the UK. We are also extremely excited to be developing this further by training the surgeons of the future who will be able to operate on a particular area of the body, rather than just on one tumour type."

Find out more

For more information about this or any other news story, contact The Royal Marsden Press Office.