News Release: School of Medicine, Winship Cancer Institute

Jul. 8,  2009

Study Aims to Improve Radiation Treatment for Cervical Cancer

News Article ImageEmory Winship Cancer Institute

Emory Winship Cancer Institute is enrolling patients with cervical cancer in a study aimed at refining how radiation is delivered against tumors.

The study tests the use of radio-frequency beacons, sometimes described as "GPS for the body," to gain information on how the cervix moves over the course of external radiation treatment

"Our long-term goal is to deliver radiation more accurately, which may improve the effectiveness and reduce the side effects of treatment," says principal investigator Peter Rossi, MD, assistant professor of radiation oncology at Emory University School of Medicine.

About 11,000 women were diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer in the United States in 2009. The disease is responsible for approximately 4,600 deaths per year, according to the American Cancer Society.

A cervical tumor may move day to day, and even second to second based on patient movement, breathing or filling of the adjacent bladder or rectum. This movement can complicate treatment for cervical cancer.

External radiation treatment, a key component of curative treatment for advanced cervical cancer, is given over minutes a day for several days or weeks. Because of the uncertainty of motion, larger fields of radiation may be necessary, which also may cause more radiation exposure to healthy organs such as the bowel or bladder, possibly causing side effects.

Two beacons, each roughly the size of a grain of rice, are attached to a plastic sleeve that lines the cervix and is applied without surgery. Researchers want eventually to use the beacons to shape the radiation beam and avoid healthy organs, but first need more information about how the cervix and the beacons move during treatment.

During radiation treatment, the beacons are activated and a detection system determines their exact location in the body, 20 times a second, which is similar to GPS.

"Using the beacons, we’ve reported that it’s possible to reduce the size of our radiation field and reduce side effects during prostate cancer treatment," Rossi says. "This study is part of an effort to make women with cancer able to benefit from this technology as well."

Patients with cervical cancer grades 1B to 4 are eligible for the current study.

The beacons are made by Calypso Medical and have been FDA-approved for prostate cancer but not for other types of cancer.

For more information, call the Emory Winship Radiation Oncology Call Center at 404-778-3473.


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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