Robotic cure

Five years on after undergoing the UK’s first Da Vinci Xi Robotic oesophagectomy operation, Royal Marsden patient Mark Howell has been given the all clear for cancer.

Patient Mark Howell and Surgeon Asif Chaudry
Patient Mark Howell (right) and Surgeon Asif Chaudry (left)

The 56-year-old plumber had the pioneering surgery in 2016 with Consultant Surgeon Mr Asif Chaudry with The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity funded da Vinci Xi robot a few months after being diagnosed with oesophageal cancer. He also received a split course of chemotherapy.

The Da Vinci Xi surgical robot has extended vision, giving surgeons greater precision in their work by providing a magnified, three-dimensional view inside a patient’s body. The surgeon also controls the robot’s computerised arms, which can grip scissors and other mechanised instruments mimicking human hand and wrist movement, providing greater accuracy when performing minimally invasive operations. 

Mark said he was thrilled to be the first to be cured of oesophageal cancer with the pioneering surgery. He said: “I consider myself very lucky that the timing was right for me to have the robotic operation. I recovered much quicker than I would have with the traditional open surgery. I have been looked after so well by Mr Chaudry and the team over the last five years. I feel so relieved.”

Consultant Surgeon, Asif Chaudry explained that the robotic and minimally invasive program at The Royal Marsden has benefitted hundreds of patients with oesophageal and gastric cancers since, and he has helped train robotic surgeons to do the operations in cancer centres in the UK and around the world. 

He said: “I am so pleased I have been able to sign Mark off and give him the all clear. Not only has he been cured of his cancer, but he recovered more quickly after the keyhole robotic operation. He was back to work as a plumber in less than three months and was playing golf after six weeks, which may have been many more months post open surgery. The traditional operation would have required a large cut in the abdomen and chest with removal of part of a rib to remove cancer from the major organs at the core of the body .”