22 Nov Wisconsin doctors pinpoint cancer with TomoTherapy radiation treatment
It’s not a cure for cancer, but a Madison-based company has found a way to attack tumors without exposing as much of the body to side effects.
TomoTherapy announced last week that its Hi-Art System, a pinpoint radiation treatment, is being used in 20 institutions in North America, including Froedtert Hospital and the Medical College of Wisconsin.
“It’s a relatively new procedure to the hospital, but we’re very pleased with how it’s performing,” said Kathy Sieja, a spokesperson for Froedert Hospital. “It’s particularly appropriate for people who have cancers that are too difficult to treat by normal means.”
In the TomoTherapy system, patients lie on a table that goes through a rotating tunnel, similar to the procedure for a CAT scan. As they pass through the system, the tunnel walls rotate in a spiral pattern, sending radiation beams at an infinite number of angles to reach the exact location of the tumor.
Each one of the beams is modified to conform to the exact size, shape, and location of the tumor, making sure that the surrounding healthy tissue is not exposed to an overdose of radiation. To make sure the tissue is spared, TomoTherapy’s radiation therapy is combined with a computerized tomography scanner to record the growth and movement of the tumor.
“The precision of this technology is unprecedented in radiation oncology,” J. Frank Wilson, chairman of radiation oncology for Froedtert and the Medical College, said in a statement. “Cancerous tumors can change shape and location from day to day, and with this equipment we can verify the position of the tumor and make immediate adjustments if needed.”
The system can deal with tumors not removable through traditional surgery. One of the patients at Froedert suffered from a tumor at the base of the skull. Surgery removed most of it, but parts remained wrapped around the carotid arteries, which further surgeries could have damaged.
Accurate radiation delivery means that tumors such as these can be targeted exactly. Patients can go in for normal radiation treatments, receiving 15 to 20 minutes of exposure in the machine daily until treatment is complete. After an average of six weeks, the hospital continues to monitor the patient for relapse.
According to Sieja, since the therapy’s installation began in July it has expanded to treating ten patients at a time in Froedert and shows no signs of slowing down.
“It’s very accurate,” she said. “It allows us to apply radiation treatment to areas that are very precise. It isn’t the silver bullet for cancer, but it’s a powerful weapon doctors can use.”