Memmingen cancer clinic first in Germany to offer image-guided radiotherapy

26 March 2007

Memmingen, Germany. A private radiotherapy institute in Bavaria has begun treating cancer patients with a new, more precise form of radiotherapy using a linear accelerator and special On-Board Imager accessory from Varian Medical Systems. The new equipment, the first of its kind in clinical operation in Germany, is being used at the private radiotherapy institute at the Klinikum Memmingen to treat breast, prostate and head/neck cancer patients with image-guided radiotherapy (IGRT).

The new imaging capability enables doctors to locate and target tumours more accurately during treatments. “This is really important because it enables us to offer more precise radiotherapy,” says Dr. Andreas Rhein, senior therapist at the new institute, which was constructed last year. “It allows us to increase the dose, particularly for our prostate patients, because we are confident that we are hitting the target and minimising the affect on surrounding healthy tissue.”

The on-board imager makes it possible for clinicians to image and treat on a single machine that rotates around the patient to take X-ray images and deliver treatments from virtually any angle. Mounted on the medical linear accelerator, the OBI device produces high-resolution X-ray images of the tumour and tracks changes in tumour shape, size or position over a multi-week course of treatment. It also allows clinicians to track and adjust for tumour motion caused by the patient’s breathing during treatment sessions.

The private radiotherapy institute at the Klinikum Memmingen is offering these IGRT treatments in collaboration with nearby Klinikum Kaufbeuren, which has treated cancer patients on Varian linear accelerators for many years. Although the new Varian Clinac 2100 high energy linear accelerator equipped with the On-Board Imager device has been located at the new centre, much of the planning and preparation work is carried out at Kaufbeuren.

Doctors at Memmingen acquire radiographic and 3D Conebeam CT images at the time of treatment using the On-Board Imager and these images are compared to diagnostic images. The On-Board Imager’s auto-match functionality automatically suggests changes in the patient’s position to line them up more precisely with the treatment beam. Any adjustments to the patient’s position can be carried out by a radiography nurse entirely from outside the treatment room, ensuring the fastest and most automated image-guided radiotherapy in the world.

Before image-guided radiotherapy

Prior to the advent of image-guided radiotherapy (IGRT), radiation oncologists had to contend with variations in patient positioning and with respiratory motion by treating a relatively large margin of healthy tissue around the tumour. This increased the risk of complications from the treatment and forced doctors to use lower, less effective doses in their treatments. IGRT enables doctors to minimize the volume of healthy tissue exposed to the treatment beam, giving them the option of using higher doses when the patient needs them.

Varian equips about 3,000 radiotherapy centres around the world with treatment machines, accessories and software for the most advanced forms of radiotherapy and radiosurgery. The market and technology leader in image-guided radiotherapy, Varian had more than 400 installations of its On-Board Imager complete or in progress at the beginning of the calendar year.

Radiotherapy in Germany

Clinicians at Memmingen hope other private and public cancer centers will follow their lead in offering patients more advanced treatments. “At present it is only private practices like ours that are thinking about introducing such advanced techniques because public hospitals have been under-funded for the last five years and there have been many advances in that time,” says Dr. Rhein.

In most developed countries medical linear accelerators are in operation for 10-15 years. The average age of Germany’s linear accelerator base is 16 years.

To top

To top