Radiation therapy is an important part of treatment for many men with prostate cancer. Conventional radiation treatment, which delivers a wide beam of radiation, is highly effective in destroying cancer cells. The wide beam, however, can also damage healthy tissue near a cancerous tumor. In addition, on any given day, the prostate gland and the tumors inside can move, affecting the precision of the radiation treatment.

First in Southeast Wisconsin to Install TomoTherapy

Both of these concerns are greatly reduced with the TomoTherapy Hi-Art System®, the latest evolution of radiation therapy for the treatment of prostate and other forms of cancer. Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin were the first in southeast Wisconsin to install TomoTherapy, and are among fewer than 100 health care facilities in the country using this advanced technology.

TomoTherapy integrates treatment planning, patient positioning and treatment delivery in one system. It provides unprecedented precision, allowing radiation to be delivered directly at the tumor while relatively sparing healthy surrounding tissue. This means faster, more effective treatment with fewer side effects than with conventional radiation therapy.

TomoTherapy enables doctors to selectively destroy tumors in the prostate gland with higher doses of radiation while reducing exposure to surrounding structures, such as the rectum and bladder.

What is TomoTherapy?

TomoTherapy — an intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) system — combines precise 3-D imaging from computerized tomography (CT) scanning with highly targeted radiation beams.

  • IMRT is an advanced form of radiation therapy. IMRT breaks a radiation beam into hundreds of tiny beams that enter the body from many angles to intersect the tumor. A computer calculates the precise radiation doses to deliver to a tumor or specific areas within the tumor. The radiation beams are delivered in a unique spiral pattern that directs radiation beams at tumors from many angles in a 360° radius around the patient. High doses of radiation can be delivered precisely and efficiently to the targeted area.
  • CT uses a computer that takes the data from multiple X-ray images and turns them into pictures on a screen. TomoTherapy uses CT to obtain moment-to-moment images of tumors immediately before or after treatment. By providing precise, real-time pictures of a tumor’s size and location, the system offers flexibility to modify therapy as tumors change over the course of treatment. Immediate adjustments can be made if needed.

The CT images, along with computerized radiation dose calculations, are used to determine the radiation dose that will best conform to the tumor shape.

TomoTherapy can reduce the length of time cancer patients spend in treatment. A typical course consists of five 20-25 minute treatments per week for eight weeks. If a tumor returns after treatment, some patients can be treated again with TomoTherapy because of the precise nature of technology. The system enables such finely tuned dose delivery that even previously irradiated areas can be treated again.

As a certified TomoTherapy Center of Excellence, Froedtert & the Medical College researchers are actively investigating new clinical applications of this technology. One area researchers are studying is the use of TomoTherapy to treat prostate cancer in less time with higher and fewer doses of radiation.