Dr. Anath Ravi is one of the creators of the MOLLI system, which helps detect breast cancer tumours. Strathroy Middlesex General Hospital is the first in Southwestern Ontario to use the technology, and it was officially unveiled on Thursday July 7, 2022.Mike Hensen/The London Free Press

Original Published on Jul 07, 2022 at 13:21

By Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A small-town hospital near London is the first in Southwestern Ontario to use new technology that pinpoints and removes breast cancer with more accuracy.

Strathroy Middlesex General Hospital announced Thursday it has adopted a new device for localizing tumours in the breast, a technique described as less-invasive and more precise than traditional procedures.

“We’re very excited,” said Julie McBrien, interim president and chief executive of the hospital. “A large proportion of breast cancer surgery is performed outside of academic centres (nearly 80 per cent), in community hospitals like ours. So, this technology, for us, is a good investment for our patients and for their care.”

Existing procedures typically involve inserting a wire in the tumour in the breast, McBrien said. Patients then have the wire and tissue surrounding the lump removed in same-day surgery.

With the new technology from Molli Surgical Inc., a Toronto-based medical device company co-founded by Ananth Ravi, a sesame seed-sized magnetic device is implanted into the breast to mark the tumour’s location, a procedure that can be done up to 30 days before the surgery.

“The patient gets to go home, wait up to 30 days, then come back in on the day of surgery,” rather than having everything done in one day, McBrien said.

During surgery, a wand and tablet are used to locate the magnet and tumour for removal.

Patients experience less pain and surgeons can pinpoint the tumours with more accuracy, McBrien said. “It’s much more comfortable for patients to get better outcomes from a cosmetic perspective. The surgeon doesn’t have to remove as much tissue, and it really improves the accuracy and efficiency through the operating room.”

The simpler approach to breast cancer treatment also can result in reduced wait times and more flexibility when scheduling surgeries, helping the hospital tackle any surgery backlog.

Strathroy-Caradoc Mayor Joanne Vanderheyden applauded the hospital for being a regional leader. “It’s positive for our community. It’s positive for our hospital,” she said. “It benefits, truly, the people that are going through a very difficult time in their lives.”

Strathroy Middlesex General Hospital began using the Molli device, which was bought using a $290,000 grant from Ontario Health, on May 2 and has used the device to treat four patients. McBrien said the hospital aims to treat 40 patients a year.

Using the new device, surgery departments can conduct 40 per cent more breast surgeries while radiology departments can see 34 per cent more patients, according to Molli Surgical’s website.

Advocating for new technology that supports precision and patient experience is a priority for the Breast Cancer Society of Canada, its board chair said.

While there are no figures showing how many hospitals in Ontario use the Molli device, the organization hopes to see more breast cancer surgical units adopting similar precision methods in the future, said Shaniah Leduc, who is also president of Cancer Insights, a health consulting firm.

“Continued research in precision oncology will allow for ongoing advances in effective surgery practices, and positive patient reported outcomes,” she said.

The launch of the new program at the Strathroy hospital was a collaborative effort between the surgical and diagnostic imaging teams at the Middlesex Hospital Alliance, McBrien said, adding the hospital also prioritizes breast cancer care through its partnership with the breast care program at St. Joseph’s Health Care London.

This item reprinted with permission from Free Press, London, Ontario