(Nov. 17, 2004) — Cancer patients diagnosed with previously untreatable tumors are being treated at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin with the new TomoTherapy Hi-Art System®. The technology, developed by Madison, Wisconsin-based TomoTherapy, Inc., is the latest evolution of cancer radiation therapy.
Froedtert & the Medical College are one of just 16 institutions in North America to install the system and the first in eastern Wisconsin.
TomoTherapy is an image-guided, intensity modulated radiotherapy system that, for the first time, combines the precision of a CT (computerized tomography) scan with the potency of high-energy radiation treatment to selectively destroy cancerous tumors while avoiding surrounding tissue. This means more of the healthy tissue in a cancer patient is spared.
“The precision of this technology is unprecedented in radiation oncology and gives us a powerful new tool against cancer,” said Dr. J. Frank Wilson, chairman of radiation oncology for Froedtert & the Medical College. “People with tumors located in difficult-to-treat areas, such as the spine, lung, throat or upper abdomen, who could not receive radiation treatment now have another option.”
TomoTherapy also may improve existing treatment techniques. For example, Wilson said, a woman with a cancerous tumor in her left breast, located near her heart, may now be able to receive radiotherapy because the radiation can be closely conformed to the breast and chest wall while completely avoiding the adjacent portion of the heart. TomoTherapy also can improve upon current prostate treatments by enabling doctors to treat the prostate to higher doses of radiation while reducing exposure to surrounding vital structures, such as the rectum and bladder.
Wilson added, “The re-irradiation of some cancer patients also is possible because of the precise nature of this tool.” When a patient’s tumor returns after radiotherapy, it is often not possible to re-treat the same area with conventional radiation treatment because the normal tissues may have reached their tolerance dose. Any further radiation can permanently damage healthy cells.
“TomoTherapy enables such finely tuned dose delivery that even previously irradiated areas can be treated, giving new hope to patients with recurrent disease,” Wilson said.
Unlike conventional radiotherapy, which delivers a wide beam of radiation from just two or three directions, the TomoTherapy system combines sophisticated IMRT (intensity modulated radiation therapy) with a unique spiral delivery pattern that precisely directs radiation beams at the target from an infinite number of angles in a 360-degree radius around the patient.
When undergoing radiation treatments with TomoTherapy, patients lie on a table that moves slowly through a rotating tunnel, called a ring gantry. The gantry houses a linear accelerator, which delivers photon radiation as the tunnel is turning, creating a spiral-shaped radiation path. The radiation beams closely conform to the tumor’s size, shape and location, and the surrounding healthy tissue is subjected to much lower dosages of radiation.
“Cancerous tumors can change shape and location from day to day. With this equipment, we can produce a 3-D image before each treatment to verify the position of the tumor and make immediate adjustments if needed,” Wilson said. TomoTherapy combines treatment planning and imaging, patient positioning and treatment delivery into one system, simplifying the planning process while improving the precision of radiation doses.
According to William Petasnick, President and CEO of Froedtert Hospital, TomoTherapy will significantly reduce the length of time cancer patients spend in treatment. In many cases, treatment time may drop by more than half, from 30 minutes to about 10 minutes. This means that more patients can be treated and hospital staff will spend less time administering radiotherapy to an individual patient.
“In addition to easing treatment for our patients, we expect the savings in time will translate into a savings for the community in terms of health care dollars,” Petasnick said. “TomoTherapy, combined with the multi-disciplinary approach to clinical care at Froedtert & the Medical College Cancer Center, will propel radiation oncology in Wisconsin to a completely new level."
One of 20 Centers of Excellence nationwide chosen by TomoTherapy, Inc. to conduct research using the TomoTherapy Hi-Art System®, Froedtert & the Medical College Cancer Center will study new methods of calculating radiation dosages for specific tissue densities. Cancer Center physicians, researchers and other experts also will collaborate with other TomoTherapy Centers of Excellence to develop treatment protocols for specific diseases such as brain, spine, head and neck, breast, prostate, upper gastrointestinal, sarcoma and lung for the purpose of product evaluation, development and clinical application. Madison’s University Hospital and Clinics is the other Center of Excellence site in the state.
“Froedtert Hospital and the Medical College of Wisconsin have a reputation for medical excellence that led us to choose this as one of our esteemed Center of Excellence sites,” said John Barni, CEO of TomoTherapy, Inc. “We are excited to partner with them to collect TomoTherapy research focused on specific sites and types of cancers. It’s also a plus to have Froedtert ideally located in eastern Wisconsin to showcase the latest TomoTherapy innovations.”
A privately-held company based in Madison, Wisconsin, TomoTherapy Inc. was founded in 1997 by two members of the University of Wisconsin-Madison TomoTherapy Research Group. Dedicated to providing better and more effective radiation treatment for cancer patients worldwide, the firm develops and manufactures the TomoTherapy Hi-Art System®. More information is available at www.tomotherapy.com.
Froedtert Hospital is a 400-bed academic medical center staffed by faculty of the Medical College of Wisconsin. It serves as an eastern Wisconsin referral center for advanced medical practice care in 37 specialties and subspecialties, and is also a major training and research facility with more than 1,000 medical, nursing and health technical students in training and over 2,000 active clinical trials each year. Froedtert, a member of Froedtert & Community Health, operates the region’s only adult Level One Trauma Center. More information is available at www.froedtert.com.