Dr. Krishna Reddy, assistant professor of radiology oncology, left, and Dr. Changhu Chen, professor and chairman of radiation oncology at the University of Toledo Medical College, stand by the stereotactic radiosurgery machine.
The University of Toledo Medical Center is unveiling a new high-tech machine today that kills cancer cells without surgery. Its doctors are calling it the next generation of radiation treatment.
Officials at the former Medical College of Ohio are holding a ceremony at the Eleanor N. Dana Cancer Center to announce that the hospital is one of five medical facilities in the country and the only hospital in northwest Ohio with the new Edge radiosurgery system.
Dr. Changhu Chen, chairman of radiation oncology, compared the high-beam machine to upgrading from an iPhone 5 to an iPhone 6.
He said the high-dose radiation can target difficult-to-reach tumors, such as those in the brain, with better accuracy. The radiation treatments are shorter, often 15 minutes as compared with an hour on older machines. They also cause fewer side effects and have the ability to eradicate tumors smaller than half a centimeter.
“Radiosurgery itself is not new. It was invented 40, 50 years ago,” Dr. Chen said. Over the years, however, the treatment of tumors in the brain, lung, or prostate advanced and moved toward isolating the bad cells.
This new system is so precise the beam adjusts itself in real time to compensate for any slight movement of the tumor during treatment. This keeps the harmful high doses away from healthy tissue, Dr. Chen said.
Dr. Chen gave an example of a patient suffering from prostate cancer. He said the many options for treatment include traditional surgery or radiation, which have similar rates of success. He said a patient in early stages of prostate cancer treated with the highly targeted radiation would not experience any of the common side effects that come with other treatments, which can include incontinence and/or loss of a sex life.
There are always potential side effects with any type of cancer treatment, including radiation, but “radiation only causes side effects right where you’re treated,” said Dr. Krishna Reddy, a radiation oncologist.
“Nobody could honestly say when something is only a couple millimeters in size, up until this machine, that they can be 100 percent confident that they are zapping the spot precisely,” he said.
Dr. Reddy said with the older version of this machine, which is only 2 years old, patients with really small tumors had to wait and watch to see if the tumors developed into something serious. He said this technology is giving hope to people with metastatic cancer — cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.
This is a new concept for most cancer doctors. “When most people see doctors they will say, well this is incurable. All we can do is try to maintain your quality of life,” Dr. Reddy said.
Today the medical community is trying to turn cancer into just another chronic disease, he said.
“We don’t cure high blood pressure but you’re on a medicine and you see your doctor from time to time. So we are trying turn metastatic cancer into a situation where you see your doctor, you see spots that come up, let’s get rid of it and you continue to live your high quality of life,” Dr. Reddy said.
There are limitations, however, and some patients with multiple tumors — five or more — are not good candidates for this type of treatment. There are a range of other treatments available for each unique type of cancer, he said.
“This is kind of another toolkit in our arsenal against cancer and it’s a very powerful tool,” Dr. Reddy said.
UTMC spent more than $4.5 million to create a new suite in the Dana Center for this treatment. The Edge machine itself, which is manufactured by Varian Medical Systems, cost $3.5 million.
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