In designing USC’s new Advanced Endoscopy Center, Jacques Van Dam had two distinct missions in mind. The facility, located in the Norris Cancer Hospital, had to provide excellent patient care and serve as a site for conducting important research. Physicians working in the newly opened suite say it does just that.
There is one small black machine tucked in and among dozens of other pieces of equipment that, while it does not look out of the ordinary, just might revolutionize the screening process for colon cancer. Keck Medical Center of USC is one of four research centers in the world that is using this device, a modified spectrophotometer, to determine whether a person needs to undergo a colonoscopy or not. “Right now, most people are referred for colonoscopy simply because they reach the age of 50,” explained Van Dam, professor of medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
The instrument is being tested for its efficacy, by evaluating the lining of the rectum, whether a person has polyps in the colon. Van Dam said that if this research is successful, primary care doctors will be able to tell as many as two-thirds of their patients that they do not have polyps and therefore will not need a colonoscopy. “It is going to save a lot of people the time and inconvenience of having to have an invasive, expensive, and very often ‘negative’ procedure,” said Van Dam.
This is not the only major development in the new endoscopy suite at USC Norris Cancer Hospital in recent weeks. According to Van Dam, it has acquired several new pieces of equipment that will provide excellent service to patients with several types of cancers and will help hospital physicians find and treat tumors more effectively and less invasively. One new device in place now is called The Third Eye Retroscope, a second camera that affixes to an endoscope but gives the reverse view during a colonoscopy. Because it provides the reverse angle perspective, physicians can see in both directions and have the possibility of discovering polyps that might otherwise be hidden from the more standard view. Van Dam explained that USC Norris is the only facility in Southern California with Third Eye capability.
USC Keck is also one of the few centers in the region that has both endoscopic ultrasound and digital x-ray capabilities. Endoscopic ultrasound allows physicians to detect abnormalities in several abdominal organs, including the pancreas, liver and bile duct and can even help differentiate between tumors, cysts and stones. It is also used to perform biopsies on abnormalities in the chest, abdomen and pelvis. This advanced endoscopic technology is also used to insert the gold seeds that direct image-guided radiation therapy (also known as CyberKnife) for treating malignant tumors of the pancreas.
Up next, the team is awaiting the arrival of its newest tool, a Holmium laser, another instrument that has multiple therapeutic functions. Among them, the laser is used during endoscopy to disintegrate gallbladder stones that have become trapped in the bile duct.
“With these technological advances, we are becoming the premier site in Southern California for interventional endoscopy,” said Van Dam.
By Hope Hamashige