Young girl’s ‘inoperable’ tumour removed by robot technology in Australian-first

Published: 14 March 2018

ROBOT

In an Australian-first, a Melbourne surgeon has used robot technology to remove a tumour considered inoperable, giving hope to the family of a brave six-year-old girl.

When Freja Christiansen was diagnosed with a form of cancer in 2016 called clear-cell sarcoma, her mother Liz was told due to the position of the tumour, it was inoperable.  But after an exhaustive worldwide search, the technology and skill required to help the young girl was found close to home, in Melbourne.

Due to the location of Freyja’s tumour – between a main artery and the base of her skull –  several specialists refused to operate, and the only choice was to begin targeted immunotherapy.

But Ms Christiansen didn’t give up hope, and spent the next year contacting surgeons all over the world, hoping one would agree to operate on her daughter.

The Canberra mother was willing to travel anywhere to find medical treatment, and never imagined she would find that surgeon so close to home.

It was during a call with Boston’s Children’s Hospital that Melbourne cancer surgeon Dr Ben Dixon was suggested.

Last month, in an Australian-first, Dr Dixon, along with fellow surgeon Dr Matthew Magarey, used a machine called ‘da Vinci’ to operate a small robotic arm and successfully removed part of the tumour.  A subsequent surgery was scheduled later, to remove the larger portion.

Freyja is one of the youngest recorded cases of the aggressive form of cancer, and after what seemed like endless weeks in hospital, the young girl is heading home today.

Freyja will continue with immunotherapy treatment in Melbourne, but her mother is remaining positive, and her surgeons are confident their miracle patient will continue to improve.