A New Level of Pinpoint Accuracy That’s Patient Friendly
TrueBeamTM allows UPMC cancer specialists to enhance treatment and patient comfort
Martha Makin of Somerset, Pa., says she’s “done it all” since being diagnosed with lung cancer in 2007. Not a candidate for surgery, the 69-year-old grandmother first received chemotherapy, followed by multiple radiation treatments that required her to remain still on a hard surface for long periods.
But her most recent radiation treatment in April used a new form of technology that left her impressed and enthusiastic. “I was amazed at how fast and comfortable it was,” she says. “It’s definitely my choice for future treatments!”
Determining the right treatment
“We see many cancer patients who are not good candidates for conventional surgery, particularly among the elderly,” explains Neil Christie, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon with UPMC. “Additional medical complications or hard-to-reach tumors just make surgery too risky.”
Radiation therapy is often used in such instances to shrink or eliminate tumors. For Martha, her age and type of tumor made her a good candidate for the Novalis® powered by TrueBeamTM STx system, selected by UPMC cancer specialists for the precision, speed, and comfort it offers patients.
“TrueBeam is one of the most advanced radiation technology available,” says Dwight E. Heron, MD, FACRO, professor of radiation oncology and otolaryngology, and vice chairman for clinical affairs, Department of Radiation Oncology at UPMC Cancer Centers. “It’s letting us treat challenging cancers of the brain, lungs, spine, neck, and prostate with much greater precision.”
Another UPMC first
When UPMC introduced TrueBeam STx to Pittsburgh last November, it became one of the first 20 medical centers worldwide to do so. But like all technologies, TrueBeam is just a tool. Its real potential is realized through the talents of those who use it.
“In the late 1980s, UPMC was the first center in the United States to use Gamma Knife® technology for radiosurgery of the brain. Since then, we’ve advanced our knowledge through research and the innovative use of technology,” notes Dr. Heron. “Our multidisciplinary team approach gives patients a highly individualized plan of treatment based on their specific needs. TrueBeam now extends the kind of care we can offer them.”
How it works
Some cancerous tumors are located in a hard-to-reach part of the body, while others “float” in an organ, or shift position when a person breathes or coughs. Just like a sharpshooter often struggles to hit a moving target, such cancers make it hard to directly aim radiation at a tumor.
“But TrueBeam’s built-in imager produces sharp, ‘real-time’ 3D images that fine-tune a patient’s position during treatment, even while breathing,” explains Dr. Heron. “It’s able to track a tumor’s exact location within a millimeter.”
UPMC specialists are combining TrueBeam technology with RapidArc®, another radiotherapy technique that delivers a powerful, faster, more uniform dose of radiation. Radiosurgery and other radiation treatments can now be accomplished two to eight times faster, with fewer side effects reported by patients.
“These and other minimally invasive treatments are really redefining how we treat cancer,” notes Dr. Christie. “We’re no longer limited by conventional procedures.”
To learn more
The TrueBeam system is housed at the Mary Hillman Jennings Radiation Oncology Center at UPMC Shadyside. UPMC provides access to a number of physicians that can refer interested patients to the center. For a list, visit www.UPMC.com/FindADoctor or call 1-800-533-UPMC (8762).