Section: Saint Barnabas Medical Center News

New Radiation Equipment Helps Cancer Patients Breathe Easier


Livingston, NJ - Saint Barnabas Medical Center is pleased to announce the arrival of the Elekta Infinity™, a highly advanced radiation treatment system. Elekta Infinity reduces the time required for radiotherapy sessions, while giving clinicians the ability to treat targets more aggressively than ever before. Patients recently began receiving treatments on this new equipment.

The main goal of radiation therapy is to kill as many cancerous cells at a tumor site as possible without harming healthy cells nearby. But what happens when patients breathe during radiation treatments – thereby making the tumor a moving target? New technology sets Saint Barnabas Medical Center apart from most cancer centers by accommodating breathing movement during radiation, allowing for more precise targeting with higher doses of therapy.

The Elekta Agility system is a state of the art; computer controlled linear accelerator. It is used in conjunction with another new piece of equipment, a 4-D CT simulator. The 4D simulator uses CT scan imaging that accounts for patients’ breathing and movement to pinpoint tumor locations with extreme precision. This new equipment will be used to treat different types of malignancies, including those of the lungs, pancreas and liver and metastases to the spine.

“What it does is help us better customize treatment for patients, whether their tumors are deeper or more superficial and whether they need higher- or lower-dose energy beams,” says Alison Grann, MD, chairman of radiation oncology at Saint Barnabas. “It’s a way to target very small tumor volumes with very high-dose targeted radiation therapy. So especially for a small lung cancer . . . it’s been shown to be very effective at curing many of these tumors equally or better than surgery alone.”

More Accurate Beams
Lung cancer cases, in particular, present a treatment challenge because older radiation technology can require patients to hold their breath while beams are aimed at smaller tumors, Dr. Grann says. But the Elekta Agility “accounts for patients’ respiration to minimize the volume of tissues we’re treating.” “It can very accurately give a dose of radiation to treat cancer while minimizing toxicities,” she adds. “We don’t need patients to hold their breathing for this to target small tumors.”

A so-called cone beam CT scanner that is part of the Agility linear accelerator, helps therapists plan each patient’s radiation strategy in real time as their situation changes. This treatment unit utilizes daily CT imaging at the time of treatment delivery and thus allowing for more precise tumor targeting on a daily basis. “We can compare on the machine the original radiation plan to the daily tumor location and make minimal adjustments – for the rotation of the patient, or if the tumor changes,” Dr. Grann says. “We can see the volume of the tumor and adjust compared to what was originally planned.” In addition, certain tumors are more resistant to radiation therapy, Dr. Grann says, so the ability to use concentrated higher doses without the threat of harming nearby tissues is a huge benefit. “If you can give a higher dose of radiation per day, you may be able to prevent the progression of certain cancers you otherwise could not treat,” she adds.

No Downsides to Treatment
Dr. Grann enthusiastically sings the praises of the Elekta equipment, saying it presents no downsides in its ability to treat tough cancer cases and can greatly improve quality of life. “Especially for patients with lung cancer, so many are not candidates for surgery because they smoked and have underlying lung disease,” she says. “More and more evidence is showing that this equipment can even cure these patients, so we’re excited to be able to offer it.”

With metastatic disease, which frequently presents with pain, radiation is a very effective tool when cancer has spread to the bones. “For patients treated with radiation in the past, this offers the potential for retreatment,” Dr. Grann adds. “Because the spinal cord, for instance, is very sensitive to radiation, we might have not been able to offer more treatment previously, but this is more accurate so we can potentially treat progression in the bones and spine.”

For more information about the Radiation Oncology department at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, please call 973-322-5630.

Date: July 29, 2013

Contact: Sally Malech
Director Marketing and Public Relations

Categories: Cancer,Press Releases