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VCU Massey Cancer Center introduces safer, more effective form of radiation therapy

Jan 10, 2011


Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center has introduced a safer and more effective form of radiation therapy to treat cancer. The Center now offers volumetric modulated arc therapy delivery using the Philips Pinnacle3 SmartArc software to provide radiation treatment for multiple tumor sites, including prostate, head and neck, brain, breast, and lung. VCU Massey is the first cancer center in the Richmond area to offer this cutting-edge radiation technique.

VMAT is a new form of intensity modulated radiation therapy in which the tumor is continuously irradiated while the radiation source rotates 360 degrees around the patient in single or multiple arcs. This technique maximizes and more accurately targets radiation to the tumor site and better protects healthy tissues surrounding the tumor.

VMAT improves patient safety in a number of ways. Treatment time per radiation session is significantly reduced to two to three minutes with VMAT as opposed to 10 to 20 minutes with conventional IMRT. Shorter treatment times mean improved patient comfort, which leads to reduced errors in dose delivery since patients are less likely to move when they are comfortable.

VMAT also decreases the amount of radiation needed to deliver the prescribed dose to the tumor. "The combination of VMAT and SmartArc cuts the radiation produced per treatment to less than half of standard therapy," said Nesrin Dogan, Ph.D., professor and director of clinical physics in the Department of Radiation Oncology at VCU Massey.

In addition, because VMAT more efficiently uses the radiation beam, secondary radiation is substantially diminished in comparison to conventional IMRT techniques. According to Mitchell Anscher, M.D., professor and Florence and Hyman Meyers Chair of Radiation Oncology at VCU Massey, VMAT significantly lessens the patients whole body radiation exposure, thereby decreasing the risk of radiation-induced secondary cancers."

"Just as important," he said, "our highly trained staff at VCU Massey provides multiple levels of quality assurance and state-of-the-art treatment planning to further ensure VMAT is safe and effective."

Written by: Jenny Owen

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