An Australian hospital has become a teaching facility for image-guided radiotherapy (IGRT).
The radiation oncology department at Royal North Shore Hospital (RNSH; Sydney, NSW, Australia) has become the first in Australia to be formally accredited by Varian Medical Systems (Palo Alto, CA, USA), a world leader in radiotherapy technology. The hospital will hold four IGRT courses in 2010, and there are plans to extend this accreditation to other advanced techniques such as intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) and RapidArc in the future.
"The advanced radiotherapy that we use in our department combines computer-controlled technology with imaging equipment to deliver intensity-modulated radiotherapy and image-guided radiotherapy,” said associate professor Michael Back, director of radiation oncology at the hospital's Northern Sydney Cancer Centre. "These techniques enable the radiation therapists to image and precisely target the patient's tumor each day to within an accuracy level previously unheard of in conventional radiotherapy.”
Prof. Back reported that the signing of the contract with Varian to provide other radiation oncology departments with training in such techniques is a great step towards improving the precision and quality of radiotherapy departments using this equipment across Australasia. "Using these techniques we are able to minimize exposure to the salivary glands in head and neck tumor patients or exposure to the rectum in prostate cancer patients,” added Prof. Back. "As we are able to deliver higher doses of radiation while reducing exposure to healthy tissue, we also have a better chance of controlling the tumor and improving the outcome for patients.”
Prof. Back's team of radiation oncologists, radiation therapists, and medical physicists has been teaching these techniques to clinicians from other hospitals on an unofficial basis since 2007. "Now that the agreement with Varian Medical Systems has been formalized, the department will be able to provide far more support and instruction to other radiotherapy departments across New South Wales and the rest of Australia,” added Prof Back. "In time, this will mean that more Australian cancer patients will benefit from this improved therapy.”
Chris Cowley, managing director of Varian Medial Systems Australasia, said "Royal North Shore Hospital is one of the world's leading radiotherapy institutions, and Varian is pleased to formalize this arrangement with the radiation oncology department. "The department has been using our advanced radiotherapy equipment for several years and its use to treat patients is now standard practice at RNSH. I hope Professor Back and his team can use this valuable experience to help other radiotherapy departments benefit from these radiotherapy techniques.”
IGRT can improve the quality of all forms of radiotherapy. "Techniques like intensity-modulated radiation therapy have enabled clinicians to shape the radiation beam so it conforms to the tumor being treated, whereas IGRT makes it easier to know exactly where to aim the beams,” added Mr. Cowley.
Prior to the advent of IGRT, radiation oncologists had to contend with variations in patient positioning and with respiratory motion by treating a larger margin of healthy tissue around the tumor. IGRT enables clinicians to minimize further the volume of healthy tissue exposed to the treatment beam. Potentially, image data from IGRT tools such as Varian's On-Board Imager device will be used to assess changes in tumor size and shape over a course of treatment, and make real-time adaptations to the treatment plan.
Varian Medical Systems, Inc. is a leading manufacturer of medical devices and software for treating cancer and other medical conditions with radiotherapy, radiosurgery, proton therapy, and brachytherapy. The company supplies informatics software for managing comprehensive cancer clinics, radiotherapy centers, and medical oncology practices. Varian is a premier supplier of tubes and digital detectors for x-ray imaging in medical, scientific, and industrial applications and also supplies X-ray imaging products for cargo screening and industrial inspection.
Royal North Shore Hospital
Varian Medical Systems