Brachytherapy seeds in the prostate. (Credit:

A robot could become the weapon of choice for detecting and treating the most common cancer in men, improving results and reducing side effects. Scientists and mathematicians are working on a potentially game-changing way of improving the accuracy of both prostate cancer biopsies and of brachytherapy, which is used to treat some prostate cancers.

The five-year £3.3m EU-funded project brings together robot-design experts in France, a steerable flexible needle designed in the Netherlands, and a system guided by artificial intelligence and mathematical modelling by UK experts at the University of Portsmouth, working with medics and Clinical Scientists at Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth.

A prototype is expected to be ready within five years.

Professors Dylan Jones and Ashraf Labib, both at the University of Portsmouth, have decades of world-leading research in logistical modelling and in using artificial intelligence to help make better decisions.

“Prostate cancer was chosen for the development of this radical new treatment solution because it’s such a common cancer and where it is in the body lends itself to the use of robotics,” says Jones.

“There are particular challenges in delivering brachytherapy – it’s not the only treatment for prostate cancer, but it’s a good option for treatment for many patients. This development will, we hope, allow medics and scientists to come up with a treatment plan that is much more focused on the individual and the ‘map’ of their particular cancer. It will mean fewer needles need to be used, the treatment will be less invasive, and it will be much more accurate, giving medics superb precision.”