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DeKalb Medical Offers Cancer Patients Faster Ultra Precise Radiotherapy Using RapidArc Technology

April 19, 2011

Decatur, GA -- (April 19, 2011) -- Doctors at DeKalb Medical will soon commence treating cancer patients with RapidArc® radiotherapy, a fast, precise form of treatment delivered using advanced technology from Varian Medical Systems. The new RapidArc™ treatment, which is two to eight times faster than conventional radiotherapy, will be available to patients later this month.

RapidArc technology delivers image-guided IMRT (intensity-modulated radiation therapy) very quickly, in a single rotation of the treatment machine around the patient. These treatments involve the use of precisely shaped beams that target the tumor and minimize exposure of surrounding healthy tissues.

“We’re really excited to be able to offer patients this treatment option,” says Dr. David Holladay, Medical Director of Radiation Oncology. “RapidArc technology will enable us to target many types of cancer accurately while reducing the exposure of surrounding healthy tissues and organs. It should also be easier on our patients. During treatment, it’s hard for people to hold still for long periods of time. By delivering doses more quickly, we can simultaneously improve the quality of care and shorten the time our patients spend in treatment.”

A vulvar cancer patient is slated to be the first to receive a RapidArc treatment at DeKalb. Christopher Williamson, M.S., DABR, the center’s medical physicist, has been creating the RapidArc treatment plan.
“The bulk of this patient’s tumor is situated around the rectum, bladder and small bowel,” Williamson said. “By using RapidArc, we will be able to deliver the prescribed dose to the tumor volume while reducing dose to the critical structures around it, which can reduce the likelihood of there being side effects from the treatment.” 1, 2
Williamson estimates that each of this patient’s 37 treatments will take approximately four minutes to deliver. “This is significantly shorter than a conventional IMRT treatment, which would have taken 10-15 minutes each day,” he said. “RapidArc provides similar, if not better, results as a conventional IMRT plan in terms of dose distribution and normal tissue avoidance, but in a fraction of the treatment time.” 4,5

The Technology

RapidArc treatments will be delivered using a medical linear accelerator from Varian Medical Systems, which incorporates a special imaging system for generating and using images to guide patient positioning and treatment delivery. The linear accelerator rotates around the patient to deliver the radiation treatments from nearly any angle. 

Beam shaping is accomplished using an important accessory called a multi-leaf collimator (MLC), a device with 120 computer-controlled mechanical “leaves” or “fingers” that can move to create apertures of different shapes and sizes. During a RapidArc treatment, specialized software algorithms will vary three parameters simultaneously: the speed of rotation around the patient, the shape of the MLC aperture, and the dose delivery rate. “RapidArc allows us to quickly deliver precise treatments for complex plans. The fact that the treatments are delivered faster reduces the potential for internal organ motion or patient motion,” Williamson said. “We look forward to using RapidArc for the treatment of pelvic, head and neck, and brain tumors, to list a few.”

"We believe that the improvements and upgrades we have made in our technology, our physics capabilities, and in our department in general, will enhance our ability to treat patients more effectively while minimizing side effects,” said Dr. Holladay.

About DeKalb Medical

DeKalb Medical is a leader in Atlanta in oncology research and treatment. The Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons validated the excellence of its cancer care program by granting a three-year approval to DeKalb Medical as a community hospital comprehensive oncology program. Only 20 percent of hospitals in the United States have been able to achieve this cancer center accreditation approval status. In addition, DeKalb Medical also received the Outstanding Achievement Award from the Commission on Cancer for meeting or exceeding the seven standards set out by the Commission.

[1] Zelefsky M. et al. Long-Term Outcome of High Dose Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy for Patients With Clinically Localized Prostate Cancer. The Journal of Urology. 2006: 176, 1415:1419.

[2] Lin A. et al. Quality of life after parotid-sparing IMRT for head-and-neck cancer: a prospective longitudinal study. Int. J. Radiation Oncology Biol. Phys. 2003; 57: 61.

[3] Mundt, AJ. Preliminary analysis of chronic gastrointestinal toxicity in gynecology patients treated with intensity-modulated whole pelvic radiation therapy. Int. J. Radiation Oncology Biol. Phys. 2003; 56:1354. 

[4] Vieillot S. et al. Plan comparison of volumetric-modulated arc therapy (RapidArc) and conventional intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) in anal canal cancer. Radiat Oncol. 2010; 5: 92.

[5] Weber DC et al. RapidArc, intensity modulated photon and proton techniques for recurrent prostate cancer in previously irradiated patients: a treatment planning comparison study. Radiat Oncol. 2009; 4: 34.

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