Cyberknife helps cancer patients

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
August 29, 2008 8:54:26 AM PDT
There is a treatment for cancer that's becoming more and more popular.It's called Radiosurgery, and several different high-tech machines are available to do it. One of them is called Cyberknife.

It's costly, but it's amazing. It's a radiation tool that functions like surgery, obliterating tumors with precision, without cuts and without pain. First, they were used only for brain tumors, then brain and spine. Now, they're expanding in use.

Motorcycle lover Tony Fusco has owned dozens of motorcycles. He's been riding since he was a teenager.

But it was only after the treatment of his pancreatic cancer that for the first time ever, he bought a bike that was brand new.

"It's like there's another life, you know," he said. "So I feel great, I really do."

Tony isn't cured, at least that's not the word yet. He's still being monitored, but he's had no cancer effects since he was treated with Radiosurgery three years ago.

He had gotten a very bleak diagnosis: inoperable cancer of the pancreas.

"So I said 'Doc, what does that mean?'" Fusco said. "And he said, 'I'm sorry to say that you only have four months to live.' And I just fell apart."

But Tony's close-knit family found an option for him at the Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, New Jersey: a stereotactic Radiosurgery tool called the Cyberknife. It's a robotic arm that delivers very precise doses of radiation.

"We can give a high-end dose in such a precise manner than we get the same results as if we had cut it out," Dr. Nathan Kaufman said.

The arm movement allows for the radiation to be delivered from different angles, and the precision saves nearby organs from receiving radiation.

The robot is constantly adjusting, even to breathing movements.

"The robot is constantly imaging the target, so it's like a sniper fixing on a target," Dr. Kaufman said. "And even if there's a little movement, it will automatically move."

Not all tumors can be treated with the Cyberknife, but it's a growing option for many cancer patients. Radiation therapy is often one way to get rid of a cancer without surgery.

Actor Patrick Swayze, who has pancreatic cancer, is reportedly being treated with a Cyberknife.

Some hospitals have a similar system to the Cyberknife called the Novalis System.

Information from the American Brain Tumor Association:

How is Radiosurgery given?

There are several techniques used to deliver Radiosurgery. In the paragraphs that follow, we describe a typical day of treatment using the more common types of Radiosurgery equipment. Although the equipment or method you see may vary, the goal of the treatment is the same.

Your first contact with the Radiosurgery unit will likely be with one of the members of the Radiosurgery team. Radiosurgery requires a team of specialists. That team may include a neurosurgeon, radiation oncologist, radiologist, radiation physicist, neurologist, anesthesiologist, specially trained nurses, technologists and the unit support staff. Members of the team first review your medical records to decide if Radiosurgery would be of benefit to you. If it is determined that Radiosurgery is an option and you consent to treatment, the next steps will be obtaining the records and scans needed to plan your personalized treatment.

Your recent MRI scans, a current scan or additional images, biopsy or surgical reports, pathology reports, and specially designed planning software are used to precisely determine the plan for treating your tumor. The radiosurgery team calibrates the equipment to match your personalized treatment plan, including the area to be treated and the dose of radiation to be given. In general, the area radiated includes the abnormal area with a tiny margin of surrounding normal tissue. The dose of radiation is centered over the entire volume of the target area. The radiation dose decreases rapidly as the distance away from the target area increases.


  • National Library of Medicine

    CYBERKNIFE IN OUR AREA: Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, NJ; Overlook Hospital in Summit, NJ; and Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, Long Island.



    STORY BY: Medical reporter Dr. Jay Adlersberg

    WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King

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