News Release: Emory Healthcare, Winship Cancer Institute

Mar. 19,  2009

Faster Radiation Treatment System Now Offered at Emory University Hospital Midtown

A state-of-the-art radiation delivery system that significantly reduces treatment time for cancer patients is now available at Emory University Hospital Midtown (EUHM).

The system may be considered as an alternative to surgery or other types of radiation therapy for appropriate patients. It is designed to treat tumors at certain sites, including the prostate, breast, head and neck or abdomen. EUHM is one of the first facilities in Georgia to offer the new treatment system, called RapidArc.

"This new system greatly reduces treatment time by utilizing a new approach to treatment delivery," says Zach Fowler, MD, assistant professor of radiation oncology, Emory University School of Medicine and Emory Winship Cancer Institute.

Previously, each treatment session consisted of multiple radiation beams which were delivered in sequence, often with adjustments made prior to starting each beam. With RapidArc, the entire treatment is delivered in a single uninterrupted rotation of the treatment machine. As a result, treatments that once required five to 10 minutes can now be completed in less than two minutes using RapidArc."           

Because of the reduced treatment time, patients are more comfortable. They are also less likely to move during each session, which improves the treatment's accuracy. These differences could result in significant benefits for patients receiving radiation daily over several weeks.

"In a sense, it's as if the system is breathing with the patient, which is another way that it improves treatment accuracy," says Fowler.

The new radiation delivery system developed by Varian Medical Systems received approval by the FDA in 2008. Emory Healthcare is the first facility in Georgia to offer RapidArc, with two systems at Emory University Hospital and one at Emory University Hospital Midtown.

Combined with improved imaging and technology that allows variation of the radiation beam's strength, the new system can help doctors avoid delicate organs close to a tumor.

"In some cases, the radiation dose delivered to normal tissues is less than with other radiation therapy techniques, which may translate into reduced side effects for patients," says Karen Godette, MD, assistant professor of radiation oncology at Emory and director of The Emory Clinic Department of Radiation Oncology at EUHM.

The RapidArc technology at EUHM is part of a recently installed radiation therapy system known as the Trilogy linear accelerator. The Trilogy system also can be used to perform "radiosurgery," where a relatively high dose of radiation is delivered accurately to a small area in usually one to five treatment sessions.  Radiosurgery may be an alternative to surgery for some patients. 

The Trilogy system also features respiratory gating, which allows the beam to turn off during part of each respiratory cycle so less normal tissue is irradiated.


The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service. Its components include schools of medicine, nursing, and public health; Yerkes National Primate Research Center; the Emory Winship Cancer Institute; and Emory Healthcare, the largest, most comprehensive health system in Georgia. The Woodruff Health Sciences Center has a $2.3 billion budget, 17,000 employees, 2,300 full-time and 1,900 affiliated faculty, 4,300 students and trainees, and a $4.9 billion economic impact on metro Atlanta.

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Twitter: @emoryhealthsci

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