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Technology brings safe, knifeless radiation therapy

Jackson — There’s now one more weapon in the battle against cancer at Baptist Cancer Services, a division of Mississippi Baptist Medical Center. It’s advanced technology called CyberKnife, a knifeless surgery that can be used anywhere in the body to deliver radiation. At a cost of several million dollars, Baptist acquired the CyberKnife Stereotactic Radiosurgery System in late January. It’s the only one in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas.

According to Bobbie Ware, administrative director of oncology services, a task force at Baptist worked for a year to obtain this latest technology. “The administration and medical staff have been very supportive,” she said. “We’re always trying to improve what we offer to patients. This is new technology that’s in our comprehensive program. Without this we don’t have all the latest advances to offer our patients.”

Two teams consisting of radiologists, oncologists, neurosurgeons, physicists and radiation therapists went to California and Baltimore for training in the use of the CyberKnife System.

Ware said the system is used to treat patients with conditions that may or may not be operable. It is a very precise, painless, non-invasive treatment option that patients have. “It allows us to treat tumors that are very close to critical structures,” she said. “With regular surgery, there could be a loss of eyesight or paralysis in some cases, but this is very accurate and eliminates those problems.”

This system delivers super-concentrated radiation with precision so great it could split the point of a pin. Because of this precision, the CyberKnife can be used to treat tumors anywhere in the body without damaging surrounding tissue. It combines two systems, lightweight linear accelerator mounted on a robotic arm that sends the radiation to the patient and an image guidance system that tracks the tumor’s location within the body in real time to direct the radiation to the precise location where it is needed. It moves around the patient verifying the location of the tumor several times during treatment.

Before each new dose of radiation, the system scans the body and reports any necessary corrections for targeting the tumor. The patient’s position does not have to be changed, greatly reducing the time needed for treatment. Ware said treatments last from 45 minutes to an hour and a half. Upon completion, there is no need for recovery and patients go home.

Unlike other systems, the CyberKnife uses the patient’s skeletal structure as a point of reference. Others require a patient to wear an invasive stereotactic head frame that is fixed to the patient’s skull with screws.

“We did not want our treatment suite to be clinical, so we’ve made it pleasant for patients,” Ware said. “We commissioned a piece of stained glass for one wall and have a large screen TV in the ceiling. There is also surround sound music available. Patients can relax.”

She said the procedure is similar to having X-rays made. The 17 patients treated thus far have been pleased with it. In most cases, it takes six weeks before results are noticed. However, a patient treated for neuralgia reported being able to sleep through the night without pain for the first time in 20 years.

“The CyberKnife can be used on all ages, but we do not do pediatrics because we treat adult cancer,” Ware said. “The oldest patient we’ve had is a 96-year-old woman who did not want to go through regular surgery.”

She said they have primarily treated brain tumors and brain malformations but recently treated a spinal case and have scheduled a kidney case. The system can treat malignant and benign tumors anywhere in the body where radiation therapy is needed, including the pancreas and lungs.

“This is the only system that offers certain benefits and is safe, accurate and precise,” Ware said. “Our medical staff is very positive and excited to have this to offer as an option to patients.”

Baptist radiation oncologist Richard Friedman said, “This 21st-century technology gives physicians one more tool to fight cancer and other diseases in an effective, safe and painless manner. There is no other system that can do what the CyberKnife can do, making Baptist one of a handful of sites in the United States where this exciting advance in medicine can be offered to patients.”

Neurosurgeon Moses Jones added, “Having the CyberKnife at Baptist gives us the most advanced treatment system for radiosurgically treatable conditions of the entire nervous system and spine.”

Accuray Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif., developed the CyberKnife technology in cooperation with Stanford University. It is cleared for radiation therapy by the FDA in the U.S. and has approval in Europe. Accuray says the system has treated more than 10,000 patients worldwide to date.

The system was named the winner of the Most Promising New Product Award at the recent Phoenix Medical Device & Diagnostic Conference for medical device CEOs. Presented annually, the Phoenix Award honors a product that shows promise to significantly advance the practice of medicine by reducing the cost and improving the quality of healthcare.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at mbj@msbusiness.com.

About Lynn Lofton

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