Thursday, April 12, 2012

BBC #Horizon - Defeating Cancer (documentary)

The Da Vinci surgical robot
Another week and another excellent documentary from BBC Horizon. This weeks episode, Defeating Cancer, is ostensibly about the latest cancer treatments involving: targeted radiotherapy, precision surgery and new drug treatments. However, there was an obvious sub-plot - each of these innovations was only possible because of computing.
    The targeted radiotherapy involved using an incredibly sophisticated robotic arm and sensing system that could target a tumor so accurately it could even adjust for the patient's breathing. The precision surgery was performed by a surgical robot, controlled remotely by a surgeon using a 3D visualisation and control system. The new drug treatment showcased was the product of genetic sequencing, itself heavily dependent on computation, and then involved designing a new drug molecule using 3D visualisation of the active sites on a potential cancer causing gene.
   At the end of the doco the narrator did say, "none of these breakthroughs would be possible without technology."  What she meant was, without the universal machine - the computer.
   Defeating Cancer can be watched on the BBC iPlayer (in the UK), but a clip is available on YouTube.