New radiation therapy machines are faster, more precise
August 1, 2012
EDMONTON – Alberta cancer patients are benefiting from the first of three new linear accelerators (linacs) that can deliver radiation therapy faster and with remarkable precision.
A jointly-funded, $12-million initiative between Alberta Health Services (AHS) and the Alberta Cancer Foundation will place three of these sophisticated machines in Alberta’s largest cancer centres – two at the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton and one at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary. The first, at the Cross Cancer Institute, began operating this month. The second has been installed at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre and will start operating this fall. The third unit will be installed at the Cross Cancer Institute later this year.
“This new linac technology allows our clinicians to target tumours with larger doses of radiation and less damage to the surrounding healthy tissue,” says Dr. Paul Grundy, Senior Medical Director and SVP of AHS Cancer Care. “These impressive new machines will ensure that Albertans continue receiving exemplary care with the most up-to-date technology.”
Last year, more than 7,000 Albertans received radiation therapy in the course of their treatment, and that number will likely continue to increase as cancer incidence rates around the world are expected to continue rising, Dr. Grundy adds.
Using high-energy X-rays to target certain cancer cells, linear accelerators are a key component to AHS Cancer Care’s treatment and research programs. There are currently 20 linear accelerator machines in Alberta – nine in Edmonton, nine in Calgary and two in Lethbridge. The new machines will replace older, less powerful linacs.
These new machines are the first in the province to have an advanced treatment technology called RapidArc, which delivers the radiation continuously while rotating around the patient. The Cross Cancer Institute began using RapidArc in early July for some prostate patients. It now takes less than two minutes to complete the radiation delivery, compared to the previous seven to
10 minutes to deliver a comparable treatment.
At present, patient appointments are still 15 minutes long in order to provide optimum patient care. The quicker treatment delivery translates into more accurate treatment because the likelihood of patient or organ motion is decreased. More accurate treatments mean better outcomes and fewer side effects, Dr. Grundy says.
The continuing development of Alberta’s Radiation Therapy Corridor will also bring these state-of- the-art linear accelerators to Red Deer in 2013 and Grande Prairie in 2015.
The continued development of the Radiation Therapy Corridor is expected to reduce the number of Albertans having to travel 100 km or more to receive radiation treatment from 28 per cent to about eight per cent.
In Alberta, 98 per cent of cancer patients receive their first radiation therapy treatment within the provincial benchmark of four weeks from when they are deemed ready to treat. One in every two patients has a first treatment in less than a week.
Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than 3.7 million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.
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