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Providence Holy Cross Cancer Center offers new IGRT service

Varian : 11 July, 2007  (New Product)
Clinicians at Providence Holy Cross Cancer Center in Mission Hills, California, USA are using an advanced form of image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT) to treat patients with breast, prostate, head and neck, lung, and gynaecological cancers.
The Center's Radiotherapy system from Varian Medical Systems combines imaging and treatment technologies in a single machine, for fast and accurate Radiotherapy that maximises the dose to the tumour and reduces the side effects of treatment.

'This new approach to treating cancer makes it possible for us to fine-tune our targeting so that we can do a better job of protecting the surrounding tissues during treatment,' said Nancy Ellerbroek, MD, medical director for radiation oncology at the Center.

For example, Ellerbroek recently treated a 17 year old girl for a tumour of the naso-pharynx.

'Her tumour was close to her spinal cord and had already invaded the base of her skull and some lymph nodes,' Ellerbroek said. 'Prior forms of radiation therapy would have destroyed her salivary function. That can lead to a permanently dry mouth and severe dental complications. We also had to be concerned about neurological structures like the brain stem, and the optic nerve. We needed to be extremely accurate with our targeting.'

Ellerbroek's team treated the girl every weekday over a seven week period. Prior to every treatment, they used Varian's On-Board Imager device, an automated, robotic imager mounted on the treatment machine, to generate high quality images of the tumour and surrounding anatomy.

'Those images enabled us to make very fine adjustments to her position, and line up the tumor so it fell squarely into the center of the treatment beam,' Ellerbroek said. 'This kind of precision was not possible before the advent of image-guided radiotherapy.'

The young lady finished her treatment in October.

'By the end of the treatment, her breathing problems had resolved, her headaches were gone, and no more signs of cancer were detected,' Ellerbroek said. 'Her loss of salivary function was only slight - not the profound loss of function that we would have expected.'

According to Ellerbroek, having the ability to generate images on a daily basis is reassuring when she is delivering high doses of radiation to tumours close to critical structures in the body.

'It allows me to deliver the powerful doses we know are better at eradicating tumours without cutting corners because we're afraid of getting too close to something crucial,' she said. 'That means we can target tumours we would have considered untreatable just a year ago. I expect our tumour control rates will improve and our complication rates will be lower, when we've had a chance to study IGRT outcomes over a longer period of time. So far, our experience bears this out.'
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