Hugh Pickens writes writes "BBC reports that on a robot snake that, guided by a skilled surgeon and designed to get to places doctors are unable to reach without opening a patient up, could help spot and remove tumors more effectively. Robot snakes could be as minimally invasive using body orifices or local incisions as points of entry. "Surgery is a cornerstone treatment for cancer so new technologies making it even more precise and effective are crucial," says Safia Danovi from Cancer Research UK. "Thanks to research, innovations such as keyhole surgery and robotics are transforming the treatment landscape for cancer patients and this trend needs to continue." Robot snakes could complement a robotic surgical system that has been used for the past decade — the Da Vinci surgical system — that is controlled by a surgeon sitting in a nearby chair and looking at a screen displaying the area of the body where the surgery is taking place. The surgeon manipulates the robot by pressing pedals and moving levers. Natural orifice surgery has the potential to revolutionize surgery in the same way that laparoscopic surgery replaced open surgery. The objective is to enter the abdomen through an internal organ rather than through the skin — e.g. access via the mouth, oesophagus and stomach, and then through the stomach wall. "We are at the earliest stage of establishing the problems and proposing solutions," says Rob Buckingham of OC Robotics, developer of the robot snake (video). "Our prototype signals a direction of travel and is a milestone towards exploring a new surgical paradigm.""