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UAB becomes first US medical centre to treat cancer patients with RapidArc radiotherapy

Varian : 08 May, 2008  (Application Story)
The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Health System has become the first medical centre in the USA to commence treating cancer patients with RapidArc radiotherapy.
RapidArc, from Varian Medical Systems makes it possible to deliver advanced image-guided, intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) two to eight times faster than is possible with conventional IMRT or helical tomotherapy.

'Our first RapidArc patient has early-stage prostate cancer, and chose radiation therapy for his treatments,' said John B Fiveash, MD, radiation oncologist. 'He'll be receiving daily treatments for four weeks, so he was quite pleased to find out that, using RapidArc technology, we would be completing his treatments in under two minutes per day. Delivering IMRT would have taken at least five times longer with earlier technologies.'

According to Richard Popple, PhD, assistant professor and RapidArc team leader at UAB, short treatment time is an important part of overall treatment quality. 'Our initial pre-clinical testing of RapidArc has verified that sophisticated treatments can be delivered within two minutes with dosimetry that is the same as, or better than, other IMRT techniques.'

During the last week of April 2008, Varian service technicians added the RapidArc technology to the UAB Health System's existing Varian platform for image-guided IMRT. 'The installation process went very smoothly,' said Dr Popple. 'Careful planning by both UAB and Varian, coordinated by Varian project management, eliminated any surprises. This was important because we have a high patient load right now.'

RapidArc makes it possible to program a Varian linear accelerator to deliver a complete volumetric IMRT treatment with a single rotation of the treatment machine around the patient. Treatment planning analyses have shown that RapidArc matches or exceeds the precision of conventional IMRT systems and spares more of the healthy tissue surrounding the tumour. Unrelated clinical studies on Radiotherapy correlate the ability to spare more healthy tissue with reduced complications and better outcomes.

'A faster treatment reduces the chance that the patient will move during the treatment and affect the accuracy of the targeting,' adds Ivan Brezovich, PhD, chief of medical physics. 'Even if a patient keeps completely still, involuntary anatomical shifts can occur within the body during a long treatment, which may compromise treatment precision. With a prostate tumor, for example, gradual filling of the bladder can displace the target by a few millimeters. Given the time and effort that goes into getting a patient properly positioned for an accurate treatment, we're excited about a treatment approach that has a better chance of preserving that accuracy.'

'From an administrator's perspective, RapidArc will enable us to provide high-quality care for more patients,' said Mark Bassett, PhD, director of operations for Radiation Oncology at UAB. 'Any time you can treat patients more quickly without compromising treatment quality, it's good for the hospital and good for the patient.'

'RapidArc extends the versatility of Varian's image-guided Radiotherapy system, adding volumetric arc therapy to other advanced capabilities including fixed-beam IMRT and stereotactic treatments,' said Dow Wilson, president of Varian's Oncology Systems business. 'By outfitting their treatment machine with this new capability, UAB clinicians have ensured that they will be able to offer cancer patients the most appropriate form of treatment according to each patient's specific needs.'
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