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New Radiosurgery Equipment Offers Focused Radiation Treatment

The Lurie Cancer Center 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 Kalapurakal, MD, Professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology at the Feinberg School of Medicine and Co-Director of the Radiosurgery Program at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. "Now, it's changing the way we approach cancer in other parts of the body as well." The enhancements we've made allow us to use focused radiation treatment, also known as radiosurgery, to treat select tumors of the brain, lung, spine, liver, pancreas and prostate, as well as many pediatric tumors."

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 Levy, MD, PhD, Professor of Neurological Surgery and Radiation Oncology at Feinberg and Co-Director of the Radiosurgery Program. "The new equipment allows 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." Both Kalapurakal and Levy are part of the Northwestern Brain Tumor Institute.

Approximately 60 percent of all Lurie Cancer Center patients treated at Northwestern Memorial Hospital receive radiation therapy, with more than 22,000 treatments delivered annually. Patients as young as four months old can be treated through the Lurie Cancer Center's affiliation with Children's Memorial Hospital. Northwestern's medical center is one of only a few in the country 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. "This is a notable enhancement to our program," said Bharat Mittal, MD, Professor of Radiation Oncology and Chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Feinberg. "We are committed to providing patients with the most advanced therapies possible to treat their cancer."

(Last updated on June 21, 2013 )