For some cancer patients who experience the added stress of commuting daily for radiation treatment, new technology used by the Novant Health Cancer Institute is easing that burden.

That’s because radiation treatment for certain cancers, including brain and prostate, can now be administered in far fewer appointments and with fewer distressing side effects.

A system called the Varian TrueBeam linear accelerator (LINAC) targets tumors more accurately than conventional treatment by using two types of advanced therapy: HyperArc for brain tumors and triggered imaging for prostate care. One of the few health care systems offering this treatment in North Carolina, both improved radiation treatments are now available at all Novant Health Cancer facilities.

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HyperArc and triggered imaging especially benefit patients who travel long distances every day for radiation treatment.

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Lalith Kumaraswamy

“Instead of treating patients for hours, we can treat them in minutes with HyperArc,” said medical physicist Lalith Kumaraswamy, PhD, director of physics for Novant Health Cancer Institute’s department of radiation oncology. “And with triggered imaging, many patients only have to travel to the clinic five times instead of 30.”

HyperArc treats brain tumors with more precision and efficiency.

This technology targets several benign and metastatic brain growths (also called metastases) at once, rather than one at a time. Its biggest advantage? It can target and destroy several lesions simultaneously.

This is contrast to Gamma Knife, long considered the gold standard for radiosurgery. Gamma Knife patients often undergo therapy for hours at a time. HyperArc, meanwhile, is a faster and far less cumbersome experience for patients, Kumaraswamy said.

“We are constantly monitoring the patient’s movement, so there’s no need for them to wear a head-frame as Gamma Knife requires,” he said. “With HyperArc, there are minimal side effects and patient comfort increases tremendously. I see patients going in and out with no complaints.”

Linac TureBeam Group correct
The LINAC cancer radiation team at the Novant Health Cancer Institute in Charlotte is committed to providing patients with the care we all deserve. (L-R) Melissa Sherrill, Gabrielle Seymore, James Ward (back), Amanda Johnson, Patrick Sansone, Corey Clift, and Lalith Kumaraswamy.

Triggered imaging reduces side effects in prostate treatment by avoiding healthy tissue.

Before triggered imaging, no easy method existed for clinicians to pinpoint the prostate during treatment, Kumaraswamy said.

Instead, they had to expand the radiation area, a process that risked harming critical organs including the bladder and rectum. Because of this, clinicians had to break the radiation dose into as many as 30 treatments, meaning patients had to travel frequently to appointments.

With triggered imaging, Kumaraswamy and his team work with Novant Health oncologists to deliver more precise radiation in less time, which helps to increase patient comfort and reduce side effects. Some intermediate and low-risk prostate patients can complete treatment in only five visits.