In 2018, UPMC Hamot became the first hospital in the nation to use new robotic technology revolutionizing the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer.

For many years, pulmonologists used navigational bronchoscopy to reach tumors in the recesses of the lungs. This procedure uses a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing the lungs and air passages to navigate the airways. While this handheld scope technology was effective in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, researchers felt there was room for improvement.

The new Monarch™ Platform from Auris™ Health is a flexible endoscopic technology designed to detect early lung cancer. It allows doctors to diagnose and eventually treat hard-to-reach nodules in the lungs with greater precision.

UPMC Hamot became the first hospital in the nation to use this revolutionary new technology.

“This is a big game-changer,” says Stephen Kovacs, DO, pulmonologist, UPMC Hamot. “This is the next evolution of where we need to be. Navigational bronchoscopy has been fantastic, but this moves us to the next step and fixes a lot of the limitations we had with hand-holding the bronchoscope. It’s truly amazing.”

How Does It Work?

The Monarch™ Platform is a new kind of surgical scope.

With a pair of long arms and a long, blue tube attached, the physician can steer a camera and other surgical tools deep into the lungs. A video screen helps the physician to navigate areas in the lung that, until now, were unable to be seen.

Once a suspected tumor is found, it’s identified with a target. Then a small needle is used to take a tissue sample or biopsy.

“This is unlike anything we’ve been able to do before,” Dr. Kovacs says. “Lung cancer mortality rates are as high as they are because the cancer has progressed before we can find it. This technology is exactly what we need to definitively get a biopsy and make these detections sooner.”

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How Earlier Diagnosis Saves Lives

The early and accurate diagnosis of lung cancer is critical.

According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths — more than breast, prostate, and colon cancer combined. But many lives could be saved with earlier detection.

“As a minimally invasive diagnostic procedure, it offers patients the most efficient process to stay ahead of their cancer,” Dr. Kovacs says.

With a dedicated team of interventional pulmonologists, thoracic surgeons, and medical oncologists working closely together, patients who need treatment therapies will get the help they need much sooner.

“The last thing we want is for a patient to experience delays in their treatment,” says Jan Rothman, MD, medical oncologist, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. “The ability to treat a patient earlier, offer a more effective therapy, and work with Dr. Kovacs and his team has resulted in tremendous improvement in patient outcomes.”

UPMC Hamot: Taking the Lead

Nationally known for his expertise in interventional pulmonology, Dr. Kovacs and the team at UPMC Hamot have been working to build an comprehensive lung center to serve the growing number of people needing respiratory care throughout the region.

The new robotic technology, in conjunction with UPMC Hamot’s recently initiated lung cancer screening program, is aimed at helping patients get the care they need — close to home.

“People often think these types of medical advancements are only found in big academic medical centers in big cities,” says Theresa Kisiel, executive director, UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute at UPMC Hamot. “UPMC Hamot is leading the charge with this new technology, and it’s helping us to become a destination for advanced lung cancer care.”

Dr. Kovacs says he hopes this new technology will give him and his team the chance to help more patients across the region and show them what UPMC Hamot has to offer.

“I’m honored to be on the forefront of this,” Dr. Kovacs says. “We have the expertise, technology, and the best health system with a vision to keep improving. It feels good to put Erie on the map for something so good.”

For more information on the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center services at UPMC Hamot, visit us online.

About UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

When you are facing cancer, you need the best care possible. UPMC Hillman Cancer Center provides world-class cancer care, from diagnosis to treatment, to help you in your cancer battle. We are the only comprehensive cancer center in our region, as designated by the National Cancer Institute. We have more than 70 locations throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York, with more than 200 oncologists – making it easier for you to find world-class care close to home. Our internationally renowned research team is striving to find new advances in prevention, detection, and treatment. Most of all, we are here for you. Our patient-first approach aims to provide you and your loved ones the care and support you need. To find a provider near you, visit our website.

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