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Future of chemotherapy

Lakeridge Health’s RIVA robot prepares injectable cancer treatments.

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

Lakeridge Health is looking to the future with its brand new chemotherapy robot.

The robot was recently unveiled at Lakeridge’s R.S. McLaughlin Durham Regional Cancer Centre (DRCC) in Oshawa.

The robot prepares injectable cancer treatments, and is part of oncology pharmacy services in the DRCC.

Between 80 to 90 people receive treatment at the centre every day, equalling to more than 17,600 patients a year.

“Over the last couple of years, the cancer centre has undergone major renovations,” said interim regional vice-president of cancer services Kirsten Burgomaster. “This includes changes to our waiting rooms, our reception… and a negative pressure room for the robot.”

Lakeridge’s robot is one of only five Robotic Intravenous Automation (RIVA) systems in Canada.

The system was developed by Canadian company ARxIUM.

It’s kept in a negative pressure room to keep it sterile and away from outside contaminants.

The RIVA system is part of a renewal of the DRCC’s pharmacy. Other improvements include an upgraded retail pharmacy space, new consultation kiosks.

RIVA uses a robotic arm to prepare chemotherapy treatment in syringes and IV bags.

It also features a bar-code tracking system and other measures so everything is safe for patients.

Laura Wilcock, manager of the DRCC pharmacy, said up until now, every dose had to be prepared manually.

But with RIVA’s help, that’s about to change.

“Not only is the robot introducing safety for our patients, but the robot also helps to keep our staff safe as well,” said Wilcock.

Working with cancer medications requires staff to use a special facility, and rigorous safety procedures to protect themselves and make sure doses are sterile.

“The clean room where we prepare chemotherapy is a special negative pressure room that helps to protect the areas around it from possible contamination from the chemotherapy drugs, and it also helps to ensure that we have clean, filtered air in that room to help keep our doses sterile,” explained Wilcock.