New Radiosurgery Technique a Boon for Cancer Patients

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Baldassarre Stea, MD, PhD, Charles C. Hsu, MD, PhD, John Gloss, PSM

TUCSON, Ariz. (Feb. 27, 2019) -- Patients whose cancer has spread to their brain typically face hours or days of radiation treatments to combat each cancerous lesion. Now a new technique offered at the University of Arizona Cancer Center allows radiation oncologists to target as many as 10 brain lesions in a single, painless 90-minute treatment.

“I am happy to announce that the very first multi-metastatic brain treatment in one single session was successfully delivered last week,” said Baldassarre Stea, MD, PhD, chairman of the UA Department of Radiation Oncology. “This is a major step forward for our Banner – University Medicine patients to ‘make health care easier, so life can be better.’”

It was the first treatment of multiple metastases using Brainlab software in Arizona, said Charles C. Hsu, MD, PhD, who performed the radiotherapy.  

Cancer may start in one organ, such as the breast or colon, and then spread to other organs in a process known as metastasis. Cancer that has metastasized to the brain may develop into one or more brain lesions, said Dr. Hsu, an associate professor of the UA Department of Radiation Oncology and a UA Cancer Center member.

Until recently, doctors treated such patients with radiation applied to the whole brain, but most radiation oncologists now prefer to apply precisely calibrated beams of radiation to the lesions, leaving surrounding tissue intact.  

This stereotactic radiosurgery allows doctors to control and even eliminate these secondary cancers, Dr. Hsu said. But in patients with multiple lesions, the radiation treatments must be spread over several days so that patients avoid receiving too large a radiation dose. Only two or three lesions can safely be treated in one session, he said.

For patients with multiple metastatic tumors in the brain, the treatments are time-consuming and taxing. The radiosurgery is painless but requires patients to spend 6-10 hours lying motionless, which can be difficult for many cancer patients.

The groundbreaking new Brainlab software allows UA Cancer Center radiation oncologists and radiation oncology physicists like John Gloss, PSM, to safely deliver doses to multiple lesions in just minutes. 

“This is an example of how technology can be used to improve quality of life and minimize morbidity in cancer patients,” Gloss said. “This innovation is as effective in treating metastatic brain cancer as other technologies but it’s vastly easier for our patients to tolerate.”

News assignment editorsThis Brainlab video explains metastatic brain cancer and the treatment technology now in use at the University of Arizona Cancer Center and Banner – University Medicine North. For interviews with physicians involved in this new treatment, please contact Katie Riley, 520-626-4828, riley@email.arizona.edu.     

About the University of Arizona Cancer Center

The University of Arizona Cancer Center is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center with headquarters in Arizona. The UA Cancer Center is supported by NCI Cancer Center Support Grant No. CA023074. With primary locations at the University of Arizona in Tucson and at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, the UA Cancer Center has more than a dozen research and education offices throughout the state, with more than 300 physicians and scientists working together to prevent and cure cancer. For more information: uacc.arizona.edu (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | YouTube)

About Banner Health

Headquartered in Arizona, Banner Health is one of the largest nonprofit health-care systems in the country. The system owns and operates 28 acute-care hospitals, the Banner Health Network, Banner – University Medicine, Banner Medical Group, long-term care centers, outpatient surgery centers and an array of other services, including family clinics, home care and hospice services, pharmacies and a nursing registry. Banner Health is in seven states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada and Wyoming. For more information, visit BannerHealth.com.