Lung Cancer Breakthrough: New Robot Accesses Small, Hard-to-Reach Tumors

Virtua Health is second in N.J. to offer the technology, which enables doctors to catch lung cancer early — when it’s most curable

(July 6, 2021) Virtua Marlton Hospital has begun using new, robotic technology that enables physicians to access and biopsy very small, hard-to-reach growths in the lungs.

The robotic-assisted bronchoscopy system uses a thin, robotically controlled tube that travels through the mouth and into the lung’s airways.

The robotic technology will enable doctors to reach 80 to 90% of suspicious lung nodules – versus just 60% with traditional (non-robotic) bronchoscopy. The robot also reduces the need for more invasive approaches.

“No area is beyond our reach. Any nodule we see, we can get to it,” said Virtua interventional pulmonologist Syed Riaz, MD. “If the nodule turns out to be cancerous, we can begin treatment sooner and have the best possible outcomes for our patients.”

Syed Riaz, MD - Virtua Health robotic assisted brochoscopyIn fact, Dr. Riaz has already used the technology on five patients at Virtua Marlton. He identified lung cancer in three, and two tested negative for the disease.

“When we find these cancers early, we can often cure the cancer,” said Dr. Riaz.

Virtua is only the second program in New Jersey to have this technology, noted the fellowship-trained physician.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. Symptoms of lung cancer often don’t appear until the disease has advanced to other parts of the body and is harder to treat.

Patients would typically receive the procedure after a screening test for lung cancer finds a suspicious area, even if they don’t have any signs of the disease yet.

“We encourage current and former smokers to undergo a low-dose CT scan to look for any nodules that could be cancer,” Dr. Riaz explained. “Don’t wait until you have symptoms.”

At the Penn Medicine | Virtua Health Cancer Program, nurse navigators help patients schedule their CT scan. If the scan shows a suspicious area, the navigator can arrange a robotic bronchoscopy to check for cancer. And if cancer is found, the patient can receive care from the program’s pulmonologists, oncologists, and surgeons.

“It’s exciting to offer this leading-edge technology, right here in South Jersey,” said Dr. Riaz. “Local residents don’t need to travel for world-class cancer care.”

For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 888-847-8823 or visit

Virtua Marlton Hospital is part of Virtua Health, South Jersey’s largest health system and a not-for-profit organization.