Wilmot Cancer Center First Upstate to Offer Tomotherapy Technology

September 26, 2008

The James P. Wilmot Cancer Center's new Tomotherapy Hi-Art System expands treatment options for patients.

The James P. Wilmot Cancer Center has introduced next-generation technology that expands doctors’ ability to use therapeutic radiation to treat multiple tumors at once after 3-D, real-time imaging to improve precision.

The first in Upstate New York Tomotherapy Hi-Art System delivers intensity modulated radiation therapy, a type of 3–D conformal radiation therapy that uses radiation beams of varying intensities to deliver different doses of radiation to small areas of tissue at the same time. The technology allows for the delivery of higher doses of radiation within the tumor and lower doses to nearby healthy tissue.  

“With this new system, we can deliver small beamlets of radiation from every point on a spiral which provides for exceptional accuracy,” said Paul Okunieff, M.D., chair of Radiation Oncology at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “The more angles that a radiation treatment beam can be delivered from, the better the focus on the tumor and there is less impact on surrounding tissue.”

Another feature that makes Tomotherapy revolutionary is the ability to create a computed tomography (CT) image just prior to each radiation treatment. That means that doctors and therapists can get a full, three-dimensional image of a patient’s anatomy and, if needed, adjust the size, shape and intensity of the radiation beam to the precise location of the patient’s tumor during the treatment regiment. This may be necessary as the anatomy may change due to tumor shrinkage or weight loss, said Yuhchyau Chen, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Radiation Oncology.

The system shares a lot of technology with CT scanners, otherwise known as computerized tomography. The machine even looks like a CT scanner.  

When a patient is treated, therapists will take a CT scan before radiation begins, to ensure the patient is aligned perfectly. During treatment, a thin beam is rotated around the body, entering from many directions, while the table simultaneously moves into the donut-shaped machine. This effectively results in tens of thousands of little beamlets of different intensities entering the body, converging on the tumors.

Radiation oncologists have the benefit of being able to treat a patient with tumors in multiple locations, and to avoid radiation exposure to vital organs. For example, doctors can treat a tumor on the spine without damaging the spinal cord, treat cancer in the throat and avoid salivary glands, or deliver radiation to a tumor on the pancreas without harming the kidneys. This technology has already been used to treat lung, head and neck, brain, breast and prostate cancers.

The addition of the Tomotherapy system was part of a $10 million upgrade and expansion of technology installed in the new Wilmot Cancer Center.

The Medical Center has a long history of leadership in radiation oncology. The Wilmot Cancer Center radiation oncologists developed ways to use stereotactic radiation, originally designed for brain tumors, to target tumors throughout the body – opening doors and extending life for many whose diseases were considered untreatable.

The Wilmot Cancer Center is the Finger Lakes region’s leader in cancer care and research. The Center has a team of 400 doctors, scientists, nurses and support staff working together to find cures for cancer.

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Leslie White
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