Bristol Team Completes Pioneering HDR Brachytherapy Treatment That Enables Prostate Cancer Patients to Avoid Overnight Hospital Stay | Varian

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Bristol Team Completes Pioneering HDR Brachytherapy Treatment That Enables Prostate Cancer Patients to Avoid Overnight Hospital Stay

Bristol, England, February 17, 2009 – A leading provincial cancer hospital has become the first in the UK – and one of the first in Europe – to deliver two high dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy radiotherapy treatments in the same day. The procedure at Bristol Oncology Centre using Varian’s GammaMed® HDR afterloader and BrachyVision™ planning software often avoids the need for an uncomfortable overnight hospital stay for patients.

HDR brachytherapy involves using needles or catheters to place a radiation source directly within the tumor. These needles are positioned within the tumor using images, treatment planning software, and a computer-controlled device called an afterloader. To maximize accuracy, the needles generally remain in position until all treatment sessions are completed.

Dr Amit Bahl, senior oncologist at Bristol Oncology Centre, said, “When we first introduced brachytherapy treatments we used the standard procedure of delivering the first treatment on the first day and the second treatment a day later. This meant the patient would have to spend the night in hospital with the needles in place. By doing it on a single day, it is beneficial for patient comfort, it enables us to treat more patients and it is helping the NHS by freeing up bed space.

“As well as making it much more comfortable for the patient, there is less chance for needle motion and it reduces the potential for the prostate becoming swollen, as tends to happen 24 hours after the needles have been inserted.”

Dr Bahl said this innovative process has only been made possible thanks to the agreement and dedication of the entire clinical team. “It requires a lot of commitment from the entire team of oncologists, physicists, dosimetrists and radiotherapy nurses,” he says. “We are lucky here at Bristol because all our people strongly believe in this approach.

“It works like clockwork and the team feels very happy. It is extremely fulfilling to complete the treatment by the end of the day, take the needles out and ensure that the patient has a much better night’s sleep. If the patient lives nearby, he can go home that same day.”

HDR brachytherapy patients require at least six hours between treatment sessions to enable the body to recover. The team at Bristol treat two patients every other Monday using this process. Patients are normally suffering from locally advanced prostate cancer and they receive brachytherapy as a boost prior to receiving a full course of external beam radiotherapy.

The innovative procedure at Bristol has been rewarded by being shortlisted for a prestigious Department of Health AHPS (Associated Health Professionals and Scientists) Award. A team from the centre attended a short-listing ceremony in London in early January and they will discover whether they have won the Best Team award on February 27th.

Bristol Oncology Centre, which serves 2.4 million people in the Avon, Somerset and Wiltshire region, has been treating clinically using a Varian GammaMed afterloader since 2005. The device is used in combination with BrachyVision treatment planning software, which enables clinicians to plan treatments by combining and using MRI, CT and 3-D scans for the best possible images of the tumor and surrounding organs.

Editorial contact: Neil Madle, Varian Medical Systems, +44 7786 526068

About Varian Medical Systems
Varian Medical Systems, Inc., of Palo Alto, California, is the world's 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. Varian Medical Systems employs approximately 5,100 people who are located at manufacturing sites in North America and Europe and in its 60 sales and support offices around the world. For more information, visit