New Technology Targets Tumors Despite Shifts In Position
For the first time in Northwest Florida, radiation oncologists can circumvent a problem that has long complicated the treatment of cancer. Baptist Hospital’s fully robotic, on-board imaging system allows therapeutic radiation to be delivered precisely to the targeted tumor regardless of whether the tumor’s location has shifted.
This image-guided radiation therapy – or IGRT – enables the use of higher, more effective doses of radiation because there is far less risk that the radiation will damage nearby healthy tissue.
Standard radiation therapy often is limited by normal shifts within the human anatomy. Tissues and organs can settle differently each time a patient climbs onto a treatment table. Weight fluctuations over the course of multiple treatments also can cause significant changes in tumor location. Even normal breathing will change a tumor’s locale by several centimeters.
Radiation oncologists traditionally have compensated for tumor movement by enlarging treatment areas, exposing more healthy tissue to the cell-killing effects of radiation. Therefore, doses typically are lowered to avoid complications.
Manufactured by Varian Medical Systems, the on-board imaging system is mounted on the treatment machine itself. The device produces high-resolution images while tracking tumor motion for the delivery of the radiation. Using a technique known as “respiratory gating,” the radiation therapy is synchronized with the patient’s breathing patterns. This enables doctors to more safely use radiation to treat lung and other cancers of the chest.
Just prior to treatment, a radiation therapist places a small reflective cube on the patient’s chest. A video camera tracks the cube’s up-and-down movement as the patient breathes. The treatment is then synchronized with the patient’s normal breathing pattern, so that radiation is delivered to the tumor area only during a pre-determined part of the respiratory cycle, corresponding to when the tumor is in a particular position within the body. The beam is automatically shut off if the patient coughs or the normal cycle is interrupted.
Located on the Baptist Hospital campus, the Kugelman Cancer Center is the first in the area to have this technology, which typically is found only at research centers such as M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. For more information about IGRT, call Baptist HealthSource at (850) 434-4080.