Today's cancer treatments are advancing by leaps and bounds because of new technologies like RapidArc, which allows quick and efficient delivery of radiation therapy that targets the tumor while sparing healthy tissues nearby. East Jefferson General Hospital (EJGH) is the first hospital in Louisiana to use this technology.
RapidArc is used in conjunction with Novalis Tx, EJGH's most advanced stereotactic radiosurgery-capable linear accelerator, as well as with Trilogy, an image-guided system capable of delivering external beam radiation to pinpoint cancer tumors.
"Basically, RapidArc is an upgrade for Novalis and Trilogy," says Dr. Siddhartha Padmanabha, a radiation oncologist at EJGH. "It drives the technology to do more. It's a refinement that allows us to treat patients faster and enables us to treat the target, the cancer, more efficiently."
One of the many uses for RapidArc is radiosurgery, which requires no incision and instead uses a targeted, external radiation beam to shrink and sometimes destroy a tumor. The process is painless, noninvasive and has few side effects.
Radiosurgery can deliver a significantly higher amount of radiation in a single dose because it focuses directly on the tumor. With RapidArc, treatment times are two to eight times faster than conventional radiation delivery techniques.
"Using RapidArc is the ideal way to give radiation," Padmanabha says. "We achieve the highest dose of radiation to the target with the least amount of damage to the surrounding healthy tissue. Patients spend less time on the table. For instance, we can treat some prostate cancer patients in less than two minutes now."
RapidArc can be used to treat a wide variety of cancers, including those of the prostate, brain, head and neck, pancreas, rectum and gynecological tract.
"Its precision is very important in critical areas," the doctor says. "A good example is the prostate. With RapidArc, we can minimize the dose that goes to the bladder and rectum. Before, many patients had bothersome side effects from prostate cancer treatment. Today, most of our patients continue to have a normal quality of life and normal function. Some of them have no side effects at all. That would have been unheard of not too long ago."
By shaping its targeted beam to exactly match the patient's tumor, RapidArc ensures the least amount of damage outside the tumor. Because it is an outpatient procedure and is noninvasive, patients are able to resume their normal activities as soon as they are released by their doctor.
"RapidArc ... gets the job done without damaging surrounding healthy structures," Padmanabha says. "I had a patient yesterday who had prostate cancer treatment in the morning and then played 18 holes (of golf) in the afternoon. This is a pretty incredible development."