First UK prostate patient treated with RapidArc radiotherapy

17 December 2008

A 65-year-old grandfather of six has become the first cancer patient in the UK to be treated using RapidArc radiotherapy technology from Varian Medical Systems (NYSE: VAR).

Graham McCormack from Warrington in Cheshire, received the treatment at Clatterbridge centre for Oncology in the Wirral, the first UK cancer centre to introduce the revolutionary new treatment technique.

Clatterbridge Centre for Oncology provides specialist radiotherapy, chemotherapy and rehabilitation services. One of the UK’s leading cancer centres, it serves over two million people in the Wirral, north Cheshire and Liverpool area.    

Mr McCormack, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in June, has had his treatment slot reduced by 25% due to the introduction of RapidArc, with even greater savings in ‘beam-on’ time.

“It is very exciting to be the first patient in the country to benefit from this new treatment,” says Mr McCormack. “I’m still employed as a sales executive within the air cargo business, which keeps me very active, so the prospect of having the treatment in less time was very appealing. The treatment itself is over in minutes.”
“RapidArc is a major advance in radiotherapy technology that will change the way radiotherapy is planned and delivered for selected patients,” says Angela Heaton, research radiographer at Clatterbridge Centre for Oncology. “The benefit to patients is significant — not only will they need to lie on the treatment table for considerably less time but we may also be able to treat more patients as treatment times are reduced.”

With RapidArc, Varian’s Clinac medical linear accelerator can target radiation beams at a tumour while making one continuous rotation around the patient. Conventional intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) treatments are slower and more difficult for radiotherapy radiographers because they target tumours using a complex sequence of fixed beams from multiple angles.

According to Angela Heaton, the ‘beam-on’ time for Mr McCormack was reduced from nearly four minutes with conventional IMRT to just 1 minute 10 seconds with RapidArc. The total time he spent in the treatment room was reduced from over ten minutes to eight and a half minutes. In addition, the RapidArc prostate plan resulted in a better dose distribution and avoidance of organs at risk, she said.

“Shortly we intend to start using RapidArc for complex head & neck cancer treatments and we expect the beam-on time will be reduced from 25 minutes using IMRT to about two and a half minutes using two arcs with RapidArc, resulting in more efficient treatments and potentially shortening waiting lists,” she said.

RapidArc technology allows more control to conform the dose more closely to the size, shape, and location of the tumour. Faster treatment also contributes to precision by reducing the time for motion within the anatomy, and laboratory studies suggest that faster dose delivery may kill some cancer cells more effectively.

“Patient care is at the heart of everything we do so the decision to invest in this equipment was very straightforward,” says Brian Haylock, clinical director at Clatterbridge Centre for Oncology.

“By using this state-of-the-art technology we can speed up the time of some of our most complex treatments and in doing so we will be able to treat more patients comfortably with less stress to the individual. The treatment technique also has the added advantage of reducing the probability of the patient moving during treatment, as repositioning can make the treatment even longer.”

RapidArc delivers a volumetric intensity-modulated radiation therapy treatment in a single or multiple arcs of the treatment machine around the patient and makes it possible to deliver advanced image-guided IMRT two to eight times faster than is possible with conventional IMRT. Radiotherapy studies correlate the ability to spare more healthy tissue with reduced complications and better outcomes.

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