New way of targeting tumors

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
February 6, 2008 9:00:00 PM PST
Doctors have a new tool in fighting cancer. It's a laser that targets tumors with great accuracy. Radiation can kill cancer cells, but the radiation beam spreads out and can sometimes damage the normal cells surrounding the cancer.

Now, doctors are taking advantage of the split second timing abilities of computers to match the radiation directly to the tumor, even if it's a moving target.

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg.

In this church sanctuary, Ken Sanders finds peace- a respite from his two year battle with throat cancer.

"It makes me feel wonderful," said Ken Sanders. "It's the saving grace, I guess."

Every day, Ken gets IGRT -- Image Guided Radiation Therapy. The new four-dimensional imaging system is designed to target tumors, compensate for their motion, and miss healthy tissue around them, making it much more precise than traditional radiation.

"It was as if you were hit by a shot gun, and now it's as if we have a laser-guided painting gun," said Cancer specialist, Dr. Morris Geffen. "We can paint the dose into a very specific target and miss the normal tissue."

And because tumors move...

"This is the tumor and this is showing the motion with each respiration," said Dr. Geffen.

Before every treatment, the 4-D scan updates the location of the tumor, then the radiation can be realigned to hit the target.

"Not only is the precision better but we're now able to escalate the dose to such a degree that we can cure more cancers," said Dr. Geffen.

"Oh, it absolutely saved my life," said M'liss Mahn.

M'liss Mahn had an inoperable tumor behind her eye.

"The tumor was sitting, growing into my skull," said M'liss Mahn.

Over 70 days of IGRT, doctors targeted her tumor with high doses of radiation, but were able to spare her eyes, her hearing and fragile healthy tissue in her face. Now, she's cancer free, appreciating every day.

The treatment means improved accuracy in destroying the tumor because and the ability to hit it with higher doses of radiation.

It also means fewer side effects from damage to surrounding tissue for the patient.

For other details of this targeted radiation therapy, visit