Cancer Center Special Report
Radiation Therapy Evolves
New Technology Targets CancerRadiation therapy is just one part of cancer treatment, but an integral tool for many patients. About 50 percent of all cancer patients receive radiation, alone or with surgery or chemotherapy. Radiation can shrink tumors, destroy remaining cancer cells, or alleviate symptoms when a cure is no longer possible. But it comes with a risk. While a highly effective means of destroying cancer cells, radiation can also damage adjacent healthy tissue.
With Unprecedented Precision
At the Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin Cancer Center, radiation oncologists, physicists and therapists work to minimize that risk. Using advanced technology and clinical know-how, our experts plan therapy that targets tumors and spares healthy tissue — with a degree of accuracy unthinkable only a few years ago. In the last five years, Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin has introduced a number of advanced radiation techniques, including intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), high dose rate brachytherapy (HDR), Gliasite®, Mammosite®, and TomoTherapy®. Each technique improves accuracy and allows for more efficient treatment of select tumors. IMRT, for instance,breaks the external radiation beam into thousands of tiny beams, which enter the body from many angles to intersect the tumor. Precision is increased, allowing higher doses of radiation to reach the tumor while preserving healthy tissue. IMRT is particularly useful for prostate, lung, and head and neck cancers.
HDR implants radioactive seeds directly into the the tumor. The seeds deliver radiation over time, significantly reducing treatment time and exposure of healthy tissue to radiation. Because the radiation dose is precisely located, experts are able to aggressively treat prostate, breast and other cancers.
Gliasite® and Mammosite® are two specific forms of HDR. Gliasite® uses liquid radiation delivered through a catheter to treat brain cancer while Mammosite® uses radiation pellets, transported twice daily into a locally implanted balloon, to treat breast cancer. Both techniques focus radiation specifically at the tumor site, sparing surrounding tissue. For patients, this means shorter treatment times, improved outcomes, and fewer side effects.
TomoTherapy® is the latest evolution earning attention in the radiation oncology world. Installed at Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin in 2004, the TomoTherapy® Hi-Art System uses an integrated CT machine to very precisely locate the radiation field. Clinicians are able to visualize the tumor in real time just moments before treatment, allowing an unprecedented level of accuracy. As a result, TomoTherapy® is particularly useful for irregularly shaped tumors, multiple lesions, tumors near critical organs, or those in parts of the body affected by day to day motion. Because TomoTherapy® combines imaging while a patient is in the treatment position with a unique spiral dosing pattern, radiation is delivered directly to the tumor, no matter how much the tumor has changed or moved. TomoTherapy® even allows for the re-irradiation of some cancer patients, giving new hope to people with recurrent disease.
Certified as one of only 22 TomoTherapy® Centers of Excellence in the world, Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin researchers are actively investigating new clinical applications. They’ve successfully used TomoTherapy® to treat skin cancers on the face and skull, while avoiding the eyes and brain, and have also effectively treated large sarcomas of the leg and arm while minimizing the incidence of debilitating lymphedema, a common side effect of traditional radiation treatment. These breakthroughs will soon be published in a scientific journal — but area cancer patients have access to them today. “TomoTherapy® is changing our practice,” says Paul Jursinic, PhD, director of Clinical Radiation Physics at Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin. “We’re hopeful this tool is going to solve treatment challenges — and save lives.”
Source: Cancer Center Special Report 2005/06