Wisconsin Doctors Report More Success Hitting A Moving Tumor

Aug 22, 2019

Doctors at Froedtert Hospital and the Medical College of Wisconsin are reporting a treatment breakthrough in a lung cancer case. Physicians say they've been better able to keep a radiation beam targeted on a moving tumor.

Many cancer tumors don't stay still. They move a bit, as a patient wiggles or performs bodily functions. Christopher Schultz chairs the Department of Radiation Oncology at the Froedtert and Medical College Cancer Network. Dr. Schultz says a challenge for using radiation on lung cancer is that people have to breathe.

"The motion we have to contend with predominantly involves movement related to breathing, or respiration. So, tumors in the lung, if they're in the middle of the lung, the periphery of the lung, sometimes they move more than if they're central, located in the middle part of the chest," Schultz told WUWM.

Part of the Synchrony motion tracker.
Credit Chuck Quirmbach

Schultz says trying to hit a moving tumor often means expanding the radiation target, which can damage additional normal tissue. Or, the radiation is more frequently turned on and off, a process called gating, which can extend the treatment time.

Last week, he says, a team at Froedtert had success treating a 45-year-old Wisconsin man with a recently-upgraded  radiation therapy machine, called Radixact System with Synchrony,  that has a motion-tracker and can correct for patient movement.

Dr. Christopher Schultz, Medical College of Wisconsin professor, and Chairman of the Department of Radiation Oncology with the Froedtert and MCW Cancer Network.
Credit Photo Supplied by Medical College of Wisconsin

Schultz says it allowed for greater precision. "This is another tool in our toolbox here that fits into our vision of image-guided and adaptive therapy that allows us to get the best imaging, closest to the delivery of treatment, so we can be as precise as possible. We can adapt when possible to account for changes in organ motion or tumor size or shape."

He says it's too early to say for sure if last week's treatment will allow the man to live longer or beat lung cancer. But Schultz says it's clear the targeted radiation worked.

And, eventually, he says, other hospitals will be able to offer the treatment.

Dr. Schultz says Froedtert and the Medical College may also use the machine on other cancers, in the abdomen or pelvic areas, where moving tumors can be a challenge.

Support is provided by Dr. Lawrence and Mrs. Hannah Goodman for Innovation reporting.

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