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New Radiosurgery Technology Provides Improved Speed and Accuracy

Advancements in radiosurgery technology continue to improve the speed and accuracy in which radiation treatment can be delivered to treat challenging malignant cancer tumors. Nebraska Medicine recently became the first in the region to adopt the Varian TrueBeam STx radiosurgery system, which opens the door to new possibilities for the treatment of difficult to treat cancers like those in the brain, spine, lung, liver, pancreas and prostate.

"This technology is designed to do stereotactic radiosurgery and stereotactic body radiation therapy with greater speed and precision than possible with other systems," says Charles Enke, MD, radiation oncologist at Nebraska Medicine. "This is two generations beyond our current Novalis stereotactic system with accuracy measured in increments of less than a millimeter. While most radiosurgery systems use up to two targeting systems, our institution has added a total of four additional targeting technologies to improve treatment accuracy."

The TrueBeam STx can deliver treatments up to four times faster than other radiosurgery systems. Radiosurgery treatments that may typically take 30 to 60 minutes to administer, may now take just five to 20 minutes, depending on the type and location of the tumor being treated, notes Dr. Enke. This provides a more comfortable experience for the patient and less chance for tumor movement during the treatment. "Ongoing studies are showing that higher doses per treatment delivered over fewer treatments may be more effective," says Dr. Enke, "especially in areas such as prostate and lung cancer."

For tumors that are subject to movement such as in the lung, liver and prostate, the system offers a respiratory-gated treatment feature that allows the machine to deliver a continuous treatment of radiation while rotating around the patient and compensating for movement of the tumor while the dose is being delivered. The radiation beam is shaped and reshaped as it is continuously delivered from many different angles, improving accuracy and reducing treatment time. It also uses a more sophisticated method of calculating radiation dose which is much more accurate than current dose calculation algorithms. This is very important when treating sensitive areas such as in the head and lung.

"While we offer single fraction intraoperative breast radiation for appropriately-selected patients, this is an excellent option for women with left-sided breast cancers who are not eligible for intraoperative breast radiation," advises Dr. Enke.

The system also provides other benefits to breast cancer patients. Not only can TrueBeam STx shorten the treatment course by half, but it also offers a dependent breast positioning technique that allows the patient to lay on her stomach rather than her back. This enables the system to deliver radiation while the breasts are falling away from the patient, which can help minimize radiation to healthy tissues and organs like the heart and lungs, says Dr. Enke.

"The TrueBeam STx represents a significant advancement in radiation technology this is specifically designed for to deliver radiation very quickly and in fewer treatments with greater precision than we have ever had at our disposal," says Dr. Enke. "We believe this will result in better outcomes for our patients."