December 15, 2004 -- One of the UK’s top brachytherapy centers is introducing a High Dose Rate (HDR) brachytherapy program using technology from Varian Medical Systems to accelerate treatments and potentially improve outcomes in gynaecological cancers.
Bristol Oncology Centre, which serves 2.4 million people in the Avon, Somerset and Wiltshire region, is going clinical with a newly-installed Varian GammaMed &trade afterloader following a three month commissioning period. It is hoped that the new brachytherapy system will reduce treatment times and side effects while improving cure rates.
Brachytherapy treatments involve the implantation of radioactive sources inside the tumor. The Gamma Med HDR afterloader enables implantation using a maximum of twenty-four channels and it is used primarily for gynaecological, oesophageal, prostate and breast cancers.
Dr. Paul Cornes, clinical oncologist at Bristol Oncology Centre, says, “Gamma Med and the BrachyVision software have made brachytherapy exciting again. It’s definitely the way forward for us because it’s the best way to take doses higher.The outcome for patients in this region will be shorter treatment times, fewer harmful side effects and more accurate treatments. All of this is made possible by the significantly better image processing that this system allows.”
Dr. Cornes and his team will focus exclusively on treating gynaecological cancers with HDR for the first six months, then move on to prostate, oesophageal and lung treatments. The new equipment will be able to handle the same number of patients as older low dose rate machines in two days rather than a full week, enabling other teams at the oncology centre to use the GammaMed device on the remaining three days. The Centre treats in the region of 120 patients with brachytherapy each year, a number that is increasing year on year.
According to Dr. Cornes, the most exciting step forward is the advanced image processing capability offered by BrachyVision™ software. With this system, clinicians are able to combine and use MRI, CT and 3-D scans for the best possible images of the tumour and surrounding organs.
“Better imaging is vital,” Dr. Cornes explains. “If advanced imaging is fused into your system, the improved clarity enables you to better see organs and surrounding tissue, enabling you to shape the dose accordingly. The big gain for us comes from this remarkable software and its ability to integrate with all our scanning equipment and deliver better images. We want to deliver high dose rates to cure, and better imaging really helps us to achieve that.”
“Now we can effectively use brachytherapy to control dose distribution in order to deliver a stronger dose where it’s needed most and spare surrounding healthy tissue from damage.”
Staff at Bristol Oncology Centre prepare the patients for brachytherapy treatment using Varian’s Acuity™ imaging system for treatment planning. Images from this device are used together with treatment planning software to guide the placement of radiation sources within tumours. Bristol is the second UK centre to implement HDR brachytherapy treatments with a GammaMed afterloader, after Mount Vernon Hospital in London. Dr. Cornes has worked closely with the team at Mount Vernon to implement his program in Bristol.
# # #