BIRMINGHAM, Ala.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--April 27, 2001-- The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) has commenced treating cancer patients with a revolutionary new radiotherapy technique called SmartBeam(R) IMRT (Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy), a highly precise technique that targets tumors while sparing surrounding healthy tissue. Clinicians at UAB used SmartBeam IMRT for the first time in March to treat a patient with head and neck cancer. They are also using the technique to treat prostate, breast, lung, pancreatic, and other cancers.
UAB is among the first hospitals in the nation, and it is the only hospital in Alabama, equipped to offer SmartBeam IMRT from Varian Medical Systems of Palo Alto.
"We now have the potential to substantially improve both patient comfort and cure rates by protecting healthy tissue while delivering higher doses to the tumor," said Dr. James A. Bonner, M.D., Professor of Radiation Oncology at UAB. "IMRT uses powerful computerized technologies that make it possible to deliver exact medical doses with laser-like precision."
Enhancing the dose concentrations to the tumor gives clinicians a much greater chance of completely eradicating a tumor. In addition, increased precision enables clinicians to use radiation to treat areas that would have been considered too risky until now.
The new IMRT technique has already contributed to substantially improved clinical outcomes, according to studies in the Journal of Radiotherapy and Oncology and the International Journal of Radiotherapy and Oncology. Published prostate cancer studies conducted at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York showed that, when compared with other forms of radiation therapy, IMRT more than doubled the rate of tumor control, from 43% to 96%. At the same time, the rate of normal tissue complications decreased from 10 percent to 2 percent.
IMRT treatments are delivered using a sophisticated computer-controlled medical linear accelerator that is outfitted with an important beam shaping accessory called a multi-leaf collimator. The linear accelerator generates the high-energy X-rays used to treat cancer. UAB's multi-leaf collimator has 120 computer-controlled mechanical "leaves" or "fingers" that shape and size the beam to deliver an exact dose directly to the tumor.
UAB is also the first hospital in Alabama to use Varian's RPM Respiratory Gating System, another new technology for achieving an even higher level of treatment precision by compensating for tumor movement caused by a patient's breathing. The radiation beam is automatically turned on and off as the tumor moves inside and outside the specified target area as the patient breathes. This system is particularly useful for lung, liver, breast and chest wall tumors that are subject to respiratory motion.
In the U.S., there will be 1.2 million new cancer cases in 2001, according to the American Cancer Society. In the State of Alabama, there will be 22,600 new cancer cases and 9,900 cancer related deaths in 2001. As more and more cancer patients use the power of the Internet to find out about new, effective treatments like IMRT, UAB, like other hospitals offering IMRT and respiratory gating, is likely to see patients come from all over the region for treatment.
The UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center was designated by the NCI in 1973, one of the first eleven centers in the country, and has maintained its designation for more than 25 years. Considered among the elite of cancer research centers, the comprehensive center at UAB ranks as one of the nation's leaders in developing novel biotherapies such as cancer vaccines and monoclonal antibodies, and placing these drugs quickly into patient-care settings.
Varian Medical Systems, Inc., (NYSE:VAR) of Palo Alto, California, is the world's leading manufacturer of integrated cancer therapy systems as well as X-ray tubes and flat-panel sensors for imaging in medical, scientific, and industrial applications. Varian Medical Systems employs approximately 2,400 people and reported sales of $690 million in its most recent fiscal year ended September 29, 2000. For more information, visit www.varian.com.
Notes to editors:
UAB's Department of Radiation Oncology will be holding an Open House for the news media on May 1, at 10 a.m. Contact Hank Black, UAB Media Relations, 205/934-8938, for more information.
A more detailed backgrounder about IMRT is available. Call Meryl Ginsberg at 650/424-6444.