VCU Massey Cancer Center has made a significant investment in improving the region’s cancer care by becoming the only cancer care provider in Richmond to utilize the TrueBeam™ linear accelerator. This advanced machine made by Varian Medical Systems incorporates the latest image-guided radiation therapy technologies and higher dose rates to more accurately target patients’ tumors while sparing healthy tissue, reducing side effects and decreasing treatment times.
The advanced capabilities of the TrueBeam™ system allow physicians to better treat complex cancers such as lung, liver, prostate and head and neck tumors that are close to vital organs and delicate tissue. With advanced imaging techniques, physicians can monitor and adapt to changes in a patient’s anatomy caused by the radiation therapy to personalize treatment plans based on each patient’s unique physiology. The optical camera system even allows physicians to see patient motion during treatments so they can monitor and adjust as needed.
“The TrueBeam™ system offers some very exciting and state-of-the-art features, but if you don’t know how to use them you may as well be using a normal linear accelerator. This is where our experts at VCU Massey Cancer Center set us apart from other institutions,” says Jatinder Palta, Ph.D., chief physicist in the Department of Radiation Oncology at VCU Massey Cancer Center. “We have pioneers in image-guided radiation therapy who have developed advanced radiation therapy techniques that are now being used nationwide. It is this experience that allows us to take full advantage of all of the benefits of TrueBeam™.”
Massey’s downtown location started using TrueBeam™ in June 2013, and the radiation oncology team is already pioneering ways to improve radiation therapy using its advanced features. Elizabeth Weiss, M.D., radiation oncologist at Massey, and Geoffrey Hugo, Ph.D., medical physicist at Massey, have received a grant to study image-guided radiation therapy in the treatment of lung cancers. Using advanced imaging techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET) and computed tomography (CT) scans coupled with the advanced targeting abilities of TrueBeam™, they are monitoring changes in patients’ tumors throughout treatments in order to determine whether patients have better outcomes when their treatment protocol is adjusted to match the changes that are happening in their body. If successful, Weiss and Hugo will help develop new treatment protocols that could be adopted worldwide.
In addition to the incorporation of advanced imaging technologies, TrueBeam™ also offers a unique advanced motion package that allows doctors to more accurately compensate for movement caused by the patient’s breathing. In addition, TrueBeam™ can deliver much higher doses of radiation compared to other linear accelerators. The increased dose delivery combined with advanced imaging techniques can shorten a 10-minute treatment to just two or three minutes while delivering the same amount of radiation.
“Historically, physicians treated patients as if no physiological changes occur throughout the course of the radiation treatments,” says Palta. “We know this is not the case, and now advanced image-guided radiation therapy using equipment such as TrueBeam™ potentially opens a lot of possibilities for improving patient outcomes by personalizing treatment plans.”
In addition to its downtown location, TrueBeam™ is already in use at Massey’s partner clinic at Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center. Massey also plans to install the TrueBeam™ system at its Hanover facility and at Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center, where Massey provides cancer care to area veterans.