Health Team

Robot Makes Chemotherapy Safer

Posted December 24, 2007 4:06 p.m. EST
Updated December 24, 2007 9:38 p.m. EST

A robot mixing and measuring medications could make chemotherapy safer for cancer patients. Already used in Europe, the robot will make his U.S. debut in early 2008.

The drugs for chemotherapy are mixed in a sterile environment, and doses are double checked. However, using a robot takes out manual calculation, reducing the possibility of human error.

"Most important, I think, is safety. That's the first thing we were looking at when we decided to get this robot," said Dr. Han Myint, with the University of Colorado, which will perform the first chemotherapy treatments using a robot in the United States.

Mistakes in that process can be deadly, creating a wrong mix that could endanger patients. Since the drugs are designed to kill cancer cells, they could also hurt hospital staff.

"They could get burnt or some their own cells could be destroyed," Myint said.

Myint will first use the robot in treating Bill Cecil, whose sore throat in August lead to a diagnosis of mantle cell lymphoma.

"It went from abnormal swelling in your throat and 'We're probably going to biopsy it,' to mantle cell lymphoma," Cecil said.

That form on non-Hodgkin lymphoma is so rare that the median life expectancy is only three years. However, with the help of Myint, a team of nurses, chemotherapy – and, of course, the robot – Cecil said he is determined to get better.

The Colorado doctors believe the robot will eventually become the standard of care throughout the country.