BC Cancer Radiation Oncologist Dr. Scott Tyldesley.

A new era for radiation therapy

Mounting evidence suggests precision radiation therapy leads to better outcomes for cancer patients

More than half of all people diagnosed with cancer need radiation therapy as part of their treatment. Over the last decade, mounting evidence has suggested that precision radiation therapy (PRT) can lead to better outcomes for patients with all types of cancer.

PRT uses specialized, highly-focused radiation techniques to cure cancer, prolong survival and increase quality of life. External beam PRT delivers radiation therapy to tumours from various positions around a person’s body, converging accurately on the tumour site.

“By delivering focused high doses of radiation over a shorter period of time, PRT limits the dose that healthy tissues surrounding the tumour receive, while increasing the dose to the tumour itself,” says BC Cancer Radiation Oncologist Dr. Scott Tyldesley.

Improving radiation therapy for children

Some 83% of Canadian children diagnosed with cancer survive and are at risk for long-term effects of radiation treatment. Because radiation therapy requires a high degree of accuracy, patients must remain perfectly still throughout treatment; this can be particularly challenging for children. Those who are especially “wiggly” undergo sedation, which comes with side effects, requires a longer procedure and the expertise of a specialized pediatric anesthesia team. Children traditionally also need more rigid immobilization and permanent tattoos which are used to mark the radiation targets on patients’ skin.

Real-time optical surface monitoring (OSM) is a precision tool that may eliminate the need for patients to be sedated, immobilization devices to keep patients still during treatment and permanent tattoos, while still maintaining accurate positioning.

While children stand to benefit the most from OSM, research suggests that OSM may be used in brain cancer patients as an alternative to more invasive procedures. “Our current goal is to support research projects into OSM that will lead to its adoption as standard of care at BC Cancer,” says Dr. Tyldesley.

Better results with fewer treatments

“Six Degrees of Freedom” Robotic Linac couches are essential for delivering precision radiation therapy and deliver complex techniques as efficiently as possible. Because the couches can move up, down, sideways and tilt in two directions, they allow for better positioning of the patient and targeting of the tumour.

For example, men with prostate cancer currently undergo 20-44 fractions of external beam radiotherapy (EBRT) over four to nine weeks, requiring patients to make many visits to BC Cancer. With support from BC Cancer Foundation donors, a clinical trial recently launched to compare EBRT with a new PRT technique that reduces the number of treatments to as few as five visits.

The results of this trial could potentially improve outcomes for a significant number of men in B.C.

As the benefitting charity of the 2019 Fairchild Miss Chinese Vancouver Pageant Gala Dinner, the Foundation is raising funds to bring a new piece of surface-guided radiation equipment to BC Cancer – Vancouver. To donate to this initiative and to learn more, please visit: https://bccancerfoundation.com/MCVP

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