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Northwestern Memorial Expands Radiosurgery Program to Treat Tumors Throughout the Body

New Equipment Offers Focused Radiation Treatment to more Patients in Need

June 2010

CHICAGO - Northwestern Memorial Hospital, the only academic medical center in Chicago to offer Gamma Knife radiosurgery, has enhanced its radiosurgery program by upgrading to the most sophisticated equipment available for treating cancerous tumors and lesions. The new generation technology - the Leksell Gamma Knife Perfexion and the Elekta Axesse - uses focused radiation therapy to treat tumors, while providing greater precision and an application for use beyond the brain to other parts of the body.

"When this technology was first introduced, it changed the way we approach brain cancer," said John A. Kalapurakal, MD, radiation oncologist and co-director of the radiosurgery program at Northwestern Memorial. "Now, it's changing the way we approach cancer in other parts of the body as well."

"The enhancements we've made will allow us to use focused radiation treatment, known as radiosurgery, to treat select tumors of the brain, lung, spine, liver, pancreas and prostate, as well as many pediatric tumors," adds Kalapurakal, who is also a professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a member of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Through radiosurgery, doctors focus beams of radiation directly on a lesion or tumor. Individual radiation beams are too weak to damage the healthy tissue they cross on their way to the target, however when the beams are focused precisely on the tumor or lesion, they intersect to provide a combined level of radiation strong enough to destroy the diseased area.

"Our brain radiosurgery program has been in place for more than 10 years, during which time we've seen countless examples of how radiosurgery can benefit patients," said Robert M. Levy, MD, PhD, neurosurgeon, co-director of the radiosurgery program and professor of neurological surgery and radiation oncology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "The new equipment will allow us to provide an advanced level of treatment to a larger group of patients, many of whom have inoperable tumors that previously had few treatment options."

Radiation therapy is used to treat approximately 60 percent of all cancer patients at Northwestern Memorial, with more than 22,000 treatments delivered annually. Patients treated can be as young as four months old through the hospital's affiliation with Children's Memorial Hospital. Northwestern Memorial is one of only a few medical centers in the United States to offer Gamma Knife radiosurgery to both adult and pediatric patients, making it a destination for many throughout the country.

In addition to benefiting a larger group of patients, this modern radiosurgery equipment will enhance patient comfort through shorter treatment sessions while delivering a more precise and accurate treatment. The technology can also be used to treat disorders beyond cancer, including vascular abnormalities, chronic pain and benign tumors. Northwestern Memorial began using the new radiosurgery technology in January 2010.

"This is a notable enhancement to our program," said Bharat Mittal, MD, chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology and member of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University at Northwestern Memorial. "We are committed to providing patients with the most advanced therapies possible to treat their cancer."

For more information about radiosurgery at Northwestern Memorial, visit or call 312-926-8400.

(Last updated on June 21, 2013 )