Imaging and Immunotherapy Research

Robotic surgery

In late 2003, CHOC Children’s became the first pediatric hospital in California to begin offering robotic surgery for children using the da Vinci Si Firefly System. However, in addition to the system’s incredible surgical capabilities, it also provides surgeons with 3D, high-definition views inside the patient’s body injecting a safe, green-colored dye that is activated through infrared light. The dye allows surgeons to easily tell the difference between the healthy and unhealthy tissues while they operate.

CHOC researchers now use robotics in pediatric research.

Innovations in Imaging and Immunotherapy

Dr. Kabeer in surgeryIf you are looking for Dr. Mustafa H. Kabeer, CHOC pediatric surgeon, you can usually find him in the operating room performing a wide range of procedures. Yet this pediatric general and thoracic surgeon has a passion for research that extends beyond the operating room – right down, in fact, to the cellular level.

Dr. Kabeer’s background in pediatric infectious disease, biological chemistry, immunology, physiology and pediatric oncology has led him to pursue several innovative research projects in addition to his clinical surgery practice.

Robotics and Imaging

One of Dr. Kabeer’s projects combines robotics with imaging, discovering methods to distinguish cancer tissue from normal tissue without having to do a biopsy. This is especially vital, for example, in pediatric kidney cancer: every time a surgical biopsy is performed, the patient will need chemotherapy and radiation in case the tumor cells “spilled” out onto the surrounding tissues. By using a special spectroscopy approach, normal and cancerous tissue can be differentiated without the need to cut into the tumor and risk the spread of cancer cells.

Saving spleen cells to fight off future infections or tumors

Another project focuses on the large number of valuable and usable white blood cells that exist within the spleen. Different diseases such as sickle cell anemia and malaria may cause an enlarged spleen (splenomegaly) that must be removed. However, when the spleen is removed, the benefits of those white cells, including the ability to fight infection, are lost. Dr. Kabeer has
discovered a way to save the cells in patients who lose their spleen, and then give the cells back when they are fighting off an infection or a tumor. His next steps are to take the concept to human trials.

Fighting cancer with immunotherapy

Dr. Kabeer also seeks to create a tumor vaccine to help fight cancer in another laboratory project. His approach is to genetically change and fuse cancer cells to make them more vulnerable to attack by the body’s immune system. If the body’s immune surveillance system can “see” cancer cells, it can fight them off.