New technology created by Charlotte doctors can help target tumors

"You just look at everything differently when you're faced with a life threatening disease," said Valerie Owens, 58.

Owens has chosen to remain hopeful despite being diagnosed with stage four colon cancer in 2017.

It was a roller coaster of treatments including chemotherapy, radiation and operations. Then, the cancer spread to her liver.

Now, thanks to new technology Owens is gaining ground against cancer.

"Most people with liver tumors are not candidates to have them removed," said Dr. David Iannitti, the chief of HPB surgery at Atrium Health. The other alternative is to destroy them. Iannitti co-developed technology to make it easier for surgeons to target tumors.

The advanced 3-D image guidance system uses virtual reality along with real time ultrasound and positioning to help surgeons find and reach the tumors.

"Push that needle through and boom. You can see how you hit the target the first time and every time," explained Iannitti as he demonstrated the technology. He says the new system will decrease time in the operating room and complication rates.

"If you need to stick and re-stick then it can cause problems including bleeding," said Iannitti. The ideal situation, he says, is to get the target on the first time.

Iannitti performed the first ever commercial surgery using the technology at the end of April in Charlotte. He's also Valerie Owens surgeon. She feels lucky to be one of the first patients

"It's lifesaving and cutting edge technology and I'm lucky enough to be the one to get it," said Owens.

It's another tool in the fight against cancer all while improving patient care and giving patients, like Owens, hope.

The goal is for the technology to be used by more and more surgeons.