New technology enables clinicians to escalate the dose of cancer-killing radiation to tumors while minimizing complications in surrounding healthy tissue.
"The next level of cancer care is a radiotherapy system capable of delivering IMRT (Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy)..."
The American Cancer Society estimates that about 60,000 Illinoisans will be diagnosed with cancer this year.
The Radiation Oncology department at Decatur Memorial Hospital has advanced to the next level of cancer care. They now offer a new radiotherapy system capable of delivering IMRT (Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy), a very precise and sophisticated treatment technique. Clinicians at DMH use the new SmartBeam® IMRT system to treat patients with prostate, breast, head and neck, lung, pancreatic, and other cancers where precisely placed beams can be focused to carefully target tumor cells without harming surrounding healthy tissue.
"Radiation therapy is used today in more than half of all cancer treatments due to its unique clinical advantages, and it is becoming steadily more effective with new technologies that permit ultra-precise dose delivery," says Edward Elliott, MD, medical director, DMH Radiation Oncology. "Our center is equipped with state-of-the-art capabilities that our highly trained medical staff will use for treating cancer with laser-like precision. We now have the potential to substantially improve both patient comfort and cure rates by protecting healthy tissue while delivering more powerful doses to the tumor."
Enhancing the dose concentrations to the tumor gives clinicians a much greater chance of completely eradicating the tumor, rather than simply causing a temporary regression. Cancer cells are fast replicating by nature, so any damage to the genetic structure of these cells by radiation is incredibly powerful. In addition, increased optimization enables clinicians to use radiation to treat areas that would have been considered too risky just a few years ago.
The new IMRT technique has already contributed to substantially improved clinical outcomes in prostate cancer, according to studies in the Journal of Radiotherapy and Oncology and the International Journal of Radiotherapy and Oncology.
A key element at DMH is Varian’s Clinac® medical linear accelerator. This machine stands approximately nine feet tall by nearly 15 feet long and weighs about 18,700 pounds. It generates high energy X-rays by using microwave energy to accelerate electrons to nearly the speed of light. As the electrons reach maximum speed, they collide with a metal target to release photons (or X-rays). The accelerator rotates around the patient to deliver the radiation treatments from nearly any angle.
The linear accelerator is outfitted with an important accessory called a multi-leaf collimator. This device, which has computer-controlled mechanical "leaves" or "fingers," is used to shape the beam of radiation so that it conforms to the three-dimensional shape of the tumor.
Decatur Memorial Hospital Radiation Oncology department is also equipped with special software that makes it possible for clinicians to plan, simulate, and deliver IMRT and other kinds of ultra-precise cancer care.