Novel radiation therapy for cancer

Novel radiation therapy for cancer

New radiation device for faster and more precise treatment

At the Hamburg University Hospital Eppendorf (UKE), a new radiation device is to help treat cancer patients even faster, more precisely and more individually in the future. The so-called “linear accelerator”, which is considered to be one of the most modern devices in the world in this area, was put into operation on Monday and has a new technology: it circles around the patient during treatment and can therefore help the tumor from different positions irradiate variable intensity. Thanks to this innovative technology, doctors at the UKE can now work even more effectively because affected tissue can be focused more precisely than before and then destroyed by X-rays - without affecting healthy tissue.

Radiation treatment is often an integral part of cancer therapies Nowadays, radiotherapy is part of the treatment process for many types of cancer - mostly in combination with other medical measures such as Operations, chemotherapy and hormone therapy for breast cancer. With every type of cancer, the aim of radiation is to damage the cancer cells by ionizing radiation - such as X-rays - to the extent that they can no longer spread or are destroyed.

New device to minimize radiation risks But this is exactly where the risk that the procedure entails: Because radiation can also destroy surrounding healthy tissue, which is why a precise procedure is absolutely important. Here, the new radiation device in the UKE should set a new standard, because in contrast to the previous devices, the linear accelerator is equipped with two additional X-ray tubes on the floor, which can also take diagonal pictures of the patient and thereby enable a more precise procedure: “It is now possible to adapt the treatment beam exactly to the size, shape and position of the tumor, so that surrounding healthy tissue is largely spared. The quality of treatment has improved considerably. Today, tumors can be irradiated more precisely than ever before, ”explains Prof. Dr. Carsten Bokemeyer, who heads the University Cancer Center Hamburg at UKE.

In addition, there are other advantages with the new device - because the table on which the patients lie during the radiation treatment can now be better corrected and adapted to the patient's movements, and the new technology would also make positioning balls on the patient's body for even more Ensure greater safety: “The combination of several imaging and patient positioning systems provide all the information required for optimal therapy. This enables the patient to be positioned with millimeter precision, ”says Prof. Cordula Petersen, Director of the Clinic for Radiation Therapy and Radiation Oncology at the UKE.

However, the new device not only works more precisely, but also faster - according to the UKE, the radiation dose can be increased from three to five gray per minute to up to 24 gray per minute, which reduces the radiation time from 30 minutes to three would mean five to five minutes.

Use in particular for tumors in the head and neck area The new linear accelerator is to be used in particular for the therapy of tumors in the head and neck area, according to the announcement, because “for the patient, the technology offers new opportunities: thanks to the great precision, even deeper ones Tumors in the body or brain that were previously considered hardly treatable are irradiated in high doses. In such cases, the x-rays replace the scalpel. This so-called radiosurgery comes from the outside without any cuts or scars and is often a gentle alternative to surgery, ”explains Priv.-Doz. Jan Regelsberger, from the Department of Neurosurgery at UKE.

Therefore, the new radiation technology in some cases, such as for tumors on the base of the skull or on the auditory nerve as a sensible alternative to surgery, because deep-lying and therefore difficult to reach tumors or neighboring vital brain regions would cause problems again and again. It is conceivable that Dr. Jan Regelsberger also said that in such a problem the risk would be reduced by only removing part of the tumor by surgery and destroying the rest by radiation.

According to the UKE, other areas of application for the new linear accelerator are childhood brain tumors or benign tumors of the pituitary gland, but also small tumors or metastases in the lungs, which could not be treated with surgery: "With the new system, we are laying the technological foundation for a wider range of indications in radiation therapy. In the future, we will be able to precisely treat vascular malformations and tumors in sensitive areas, ”says Priv.-Doz. Andreas Krüll, Head of Radiation Therapy at the UKE Ambulance Center.

UKE's “wonder weapon” has its price
However, the commissioning of the new "wonder weapon" of the UKE, which in this country could only be compared in the Freiburg University Clinic and of which only a few have been installed worldwide, also entails considerable costs: According to the clinic, the clinic has a total of 5.5 million euros invested the linear accelerator and another powerful radiation system. From now on, 60 patients could be irradiated with the new technology every day, whereby the device is to be used both as an outpatient and inpatient - the costs for this would be borne by the health insurance companies.

Radiotherapy is becoming increasingly important in the fight against cancer
The aim of the UKE is now to scientifically examine the advantages of the new device for both the individual concerned and the mass of cancer patients. According to Prof. Martin Zeitz, the Medical Director of the UKE, it can be assumed that radiation will receive more and more attention in the future: "In the future, radiation therapy will become even more important due to the enormous technical improvements - not only in cancer therapy", However, according to the physician, the internal coordination is essential: "An essential component for optimal therapy with the ultra-modern radiation therapy devices is the close cooperation of experts from different disciplines. The new linear accelerator enables this collaboration: The responsible doctors can access CT images and treatment processes across the UKE, so that the team of specialists can work together regardless of location. ”

Hamburg's Senator for Science, Dr. Dorothee Stapelfeldt (SPD) sees the new, progressive device as an enrichment for medicine: the linear accelerator is a vivid example of how basic physical research can lead to modern treatment methods, because the device combines the advantages of modern imaging and innovative radiation technology. (sb)

Image: Rainer Sturm /

Author and source information

Video: What is cancer radiotherapy and how does it work? Cancer Research UK (October 2020).