A major international clinical trial to test a minimally invasive and safer surgical approach for patients with lung cancer is being conducted by The University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM). This trial involves video-assisted thoracoscopic (VATS) lobectomy with ultrasonic pulmonary artery sealing.
“I think this technique could completely change the way we perform surgery for lung cancer, which is the deadliest form of cancer in North America,” said Dr. Moishe Liberman, a thoracic surgeon and researcher at the CRCHUM who is also an Associate Professor of Surgery at the University of Montreal.
Currently, pulmonary lobectomy is the most commonly performed lung cancer operation in the world. It involves opening the chest and cutting the ribs to remove the lung lobe containing the cancerous tumor. But it leaves a long scar, and patients take up to six months to recover from this invasive and risky procedure. In the past 20 years, a new technique has developed: video-assisted thoracoscopic (VATS) lobectomy. Instead of making a long incision in the chest and breaking the ribs, surgeons simply make small holes to reach the target area. Their actions are guided by a miniature video camera inserted in the chest wall through one of the holes.
To facilitate and secure the procedure, a kind of pistol with a small three-millimeter jaw at the end that seals the blood vessels using ultrasonic energy is used. The device, called the HARMONIC ACE®+7 Shears was designed by Ethicon, part of Johnson & Johnson. It is commonly used to seal small blood vessels under seven mm in diameter.
After five years of pre-clinical studies at the CRCHUM, first with animals and then in Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials that demonstrated the safety of the procedure, Dr. Liberman is now leading a large multi-center Phase 2 clinical to assess the effectiveness of the technique in 150 patients in Canada, the U.S., and Europe.
The $1.8 million project is funded by Johnson & Johnson. The results should be available in four years.