Our radiation oncologists use the most advanced equipment and techniques to deliver radiation to cancerous areas, while avoiding exposure to normal tissues.
Radiation therapy is the single most effective cancer-treating agent, as tumors are rarely resistant to radiation therapy. However, radiation therapy can also damage normal, healthy tissue. With better imaging, faster computers, and improved radiation delivery systems, we’ve improved our ability to localize the dose of radiation to the tumor-bearing area, while sparing normal tissues.
We utilize external radiation (radiation beams aimed from the outside directly at the cancer cells) and internal radiation (tiny pellets that emit radiation implanted in or near the tumor).
Advanced treatment approaches we specialize in and recommend frequently are:
Brachytherapy delivers high doses of radiation in a short time by inserting a tiny, radioactive source inside the body near the site of the cancer. This technique is most often used for cancers of the uterus, cervix, and prostate.
Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) allows doctors to customize the radiation dose by varying the amount of radiation given to different parts of the treatment area. This is done in highly accurate, three-dimensional detail, according to the shape, size, and location of the tumor, and helps minimize radiation exposure to normal surrounding organs.
MRI-Guided Advanced Procedure and Simulations (MAPS) uses MRI imaging to perform an external beam radiation therapy “simulation” (or planning procedure) for a variety of tumors for improved targeting.
MRI-Guided Linear Accelerator (MRI-LINAC) uses magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, together with radiotherapy to treat cancers throughout the body, with specific advantages for soft-tissue tumors. The radiation delivery on the MRI-LINAC is fully integrated with the MRI. This means the system can deliver treatment radiation beams and monitor the target area at the same time. The unique combination of technologies gives our physicians greater control over the delivery of radiation because they can see the internal anatomy and tumor.
Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT) uses advanced radiation-delivery equipment combined with imaging technology to deliver high doses of radiation with pinpoint accuracy. This therapy is most commonly used to treat certain types of lung tumors that cannot be removed safely with surgery, and is also highly effective on tumors in the liver, spine, pancreas, and head and neck.
Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS) uses highly focused, highly accurate x-ray beams to deliver a large dose of radiation in a single treatment, made possible by new imaging capabilities that allow precise and accurate setup without the use of an invasive head frame. SRS is used to treat small brain and spinal cord tumors and certain blood vessel abnormalities.
Our department is also widely recognized for our expertise in:
Radioactive seeds are permanently implanted into an organ harboring cancer, most commonly the prostate. These seeds emit low levels of radiation directly to the cancer for several weeks. After the prescribed dose of radiation is deposited to treat the cancer the seeds no longer emit radiation and remain harmlessly behind. This technique ensures the maximum radiation dose is given to cancerous tissues, while minimizing exposure to the surrounding healthy tissue.
Retreatment represents one of the biggest challenges in radiation therapy. When cancer recurs at or near the original site, radiating the site a second time can cause very serious toxicities and should only be offered in select cases. Our doctors have years of experience in selecting appropriate patients and treating previously radiated areas while minimizing side effects. Our head and neck group has extensive experience using intensity-modulated radiation (IMRT) in this setting and is also investigating the use of stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) in specific situations
Pioneered at the Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center, this technique helps avoid inadvertent radiation to the heart during treatment for breast cancer. By taking and holding a deep breath before and during radiation therapy, the patient’s lungs inflate and the heart moves away from the radiation field. Technicians use sophisticated monitoring devices to ensure breath holds are consistent during each treatment.
Our doctors are internationally-renowned experts in treating rare cancers, such as various forms of hematologic malignancies, sarcomas and Merkel cell carcinoma. We provide unparalleled knowledge and skill in the diagnosis, treatment and management of these and other uncommon diseases. We also frequently lead the development of treatment guidelines and collaborate with scientists and physicists around the world to conduct clinical trials that explore cutting-edge therapies.
Using cutting-edge treatment devices, this technology is used to directly image the location of each patient’s tumor to ensure precise and accurate targeting before radiation is delivered every day.
This technology is used to treat tumors in organs that move when you breathe, like the lung or liver. This enables the radiation oncologist to monitor the exact tumor location and adjust for changes during treatment, minimizing radiation exposure to healthy tissues.
This treatment is given to the entire body at once in preparation for bone marrow or stem cell transplants, or as part of high-dose radiation treatment for leukemia and lymphoma. The goal of TBI is to kill any remaining cancer cells in the body, to destroy bone marrow that might harbor cancer cells before a transplant, and to suppress the patient’s immune system so that the transplanted tissue is not rejected.
The first of its kind in the US, the SPRO service provides a dedicated clinical team available 24/7 to address the complex and urgent clinical care needs of patients with advanced cancers. The service provides a comprehensive evaluation of the patient, assesses the potential role of radiotherapy and other potential palliative modalities, and communicates with patients and families regarding radiotherapy recommendations and other care considerations.
Cancers involving the spine are a complex problem requiring specialized multi-disciplinary care to optimize assessment and management. Our specialized team of physicians and nurse practitioners from radiation oncology, neurosurgery, orthopedic surgery, interventional neuroradiology, and psychosocial oncology and palliative care, work as a team to provide dedicated, coordinated assessment and management for patients with spinal tumors of all types.
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