TUF Trial shows that robotic surgery improves recovery time for bladder cancer patients



It’s one thing to think you know something, but quite another to prove it ….. Whilst many urology surgeons believed that there were significant short terms benefits of robotic surgery over open surgery, there was no definitive data. So TUF set out to test this theory, and bring certainty to hospitals and trusts looking to commission bladder cancer surgery in future.

With generous financial support from the Champniss Foundation, TUF funded a first of its kind 3 year clinical trial to look at the issue.  The trial involved 29 surgeons at nine UK hospital trusts working with 338 patients with non -metastatic bladder cancer.  The patient cohort was split into two equal groups of 169 people, one group assigned to open surgery and the other half having robot-assisted bladder removal and reconstruction.

Robotic assisted surgery allows surgeons to operate on the patient using minimum invasive instruments that are operated by surgeons using a remote console and 3D view screen, where with open surgery the surgeon is required to make larger incisions in the skin and muscle of the patient – a more invasive operation which brings greater risk of infection and complications.

Professor John Kelly, co-chief investigator and Professor of uro-oncology at University College London hospitals, said “Despite robot-assisted surgery becoming more widely available, there has been no significant clinical evaluation of its overall benefit to patient recovery.”

The study, published this year, showed that patients who received the robot-assisted bladder cancer surgery recovered faster and were sent home on average 2 days sooner than those who had undergone open surgery.

In the study it was found that the chance of readmission was reduced by 52% and that there was a four-fold (77%) reduction in the prevalence of blood clots which are a significant cause of health decline and even morbidity.

James Catto, co-chief Investigator and Professor of Urological Surgery at Sheffield University said “This is an important finding. Time in hospital is reduced and recovery is faster when using this advanced surgery.

“Ultimately, this will reduce bed pressures on the NHS and allow patients to return home more quickly. We see fewer complications from the improved mobility and less time spent in bed.”

Those running the trial say it is the strongest evidence so far of the patient benefit of robotic surgery and are calling for NICE to make robotic surgery available as a clinical option across the UK for all major abdominal surgery.

Rebecca Porta, TUF CEO, said “we hope the outcome of this important trial will improve bladder cancer patients’ treatment and care going forward.  We are very grateful that the funding for this key study was made possible through a generous grant from the Champniss Foundation.”