Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin have added a new weapon to its arsenal against cancer: a radiation therapy technology known as the TomoTherapy Hi-Art® System. Cancer physicians expect the new technology to have a significant impact on cancer care.
TomoTherapy combines advanced diagnostic imaging with unprecedented treatment efficiency, precision and safety. For cancer patients, it means faster, more effective treatment with fewer side effects than with conventional radiation therapy.
When the system was installed late in 2004, Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin became one of only 20 "TomoTherapy centers of excellence" in the nation to house the system.
TomoTherapy has the potential to treat cancers that couldn't be treated with radiation before — such as brain cancer and malignancies that grow close to the spine or other critical areas.
In addition to using TomoTherapy to treat patients with cancerous tumors now, (including malignancies of the chest and upper abdomen), Medical College of Wisconsin scientists are studying broader uses for the technology, thanks to funding from the Thomas A. & Lorraine M. Rosenberg Endowment for Clinical Cancer Research.
TomoTherapy is a refinement of Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy, or IMRT. During treatment, patients lie on a table that moves through a ring-shaped tunnel. At the same time, a linear accelerator (the radiation source) moves in an arc through the ring. The result is a unique spiral pattern that increases the number of angles at which radiation enters the body. That translates into improved ability to avoid critical organs — plus less radiation along any particular angle.
TomoTherapy overcomes several limitations of IMRT and other forms of radiation therapy. Its unprecedented precision allows clinicians to deliver high doses of radiation extremely efficiently, sparing healthy tissue and shortening each treatment from 30 minutes to five minutes.
A second advantage of TomoTherapy is its use of computed tomography (CT) to obtain moment-to-moment images of tumors immediately before or after treatment. Conventional radiation therapy relies on an image of a patient's tumor taken days or even weeks before treatment begins. But tumors can change and grow quickly; and some, such as those in the prostate gland and parts of the body affected by breathing motion — tend to be moving targets, reducing image reliability. By incorporating CT technology into the system, TomoTherapy allows clinicians to immediately verify the location of tumors and nearby organs.
"With TomoTherapy, we no longer have to plan treatments based on a single, static snapshot of the tumor taken before therapy begins," says Medical College of Wisconsin radiation oncologist Christopher Schultz, MD. "For the first time, we have nearly 'real time' information on which to base treatment decisions." By providing precise, moment-to-moment pictures of tumors' size and location, Dr. Schultz adds, the new system gives doctors the flexibility to modify therapy as tumors change over the course of treatment..
TomoTherapy brings hope
to more cancer patients.
TomoTherapy will also make radiation therapy available to patients who would not otherwise be candidates, including those who have undergone radiation therapy once but whose cancers have returned, and patients with skull base tumors that are too large to be treated with Gamma Knife.