A cancer diagnosis isn’t quite what it was before. Now, new technology in
fighting cancer is changing treatments and saving lives. TomoTherapy is
now becoming more available in Utah.
Dr. Robert Harris is a Radiation Oncologist with Gamma West Cancer Service
and explains how it works and where it is now available.
TomoTherapy is a radiation therapy machine that is used to treat cancer. It is
the only radiation therapy system designed on a CT Scanner. TomoTherapy
has been designed to take optimal advantage of the significant
advancements in radiologic imaging and fully integrated computer
technologies so we can view the tumor in 3D, in real time and plan
sophisticated 360° treatments previously unavailable. The system is a fully
integrated radiology and radiation therapy delivery system. Other radiation
therapy technologies still use older, 2D imaging with non-helical designs.
This unique radiation therapy platform allows us to target and treat tumors
with unprecedented precision, thereby sparing surrounding healthy tissues.
Daily low-dose CT imaging helps us know that radiation will reach the tumor
as planned, and that exposure to healthy tissue will be minimized along the
way. By imaging the patient daily we are able to make adjustments as needed
to be sure that we are properly targeting the tumor and the radiation is
delivered accurately. When we are sure about the tumor’s position, we can
deliver a higher dose to the tumor and avoid adjacent normal tissues that
don’t need to be treated. The result is less side effects and a more
There are hundreds of centers across the country that offer radiation therapy
services using TomoTherapy, but in Utah, Gamma West Cancer Services is the
only Radiation Therapy Cancer Treatment company using TomoTherapy.
TomoTherapy Radiation Therapy Center is now opening on the campus of St.
Mark’s Hospital. Gamma West also has a TomoTherapy Radiation Therapy
Center on the campus of Davis Hospital in Layton and one in St. George,
Tomotherapy gives us a tremendous advantage when we go to war against
cancer. It allows us to treat cancer like we could not in the past. In the past
we had to make compromises because tumors are located amongst normal
tissues and we had to limit our radiation dose to respect the tolerance of
those normal tissues. Now with TomoTherapy a high dose of radiation can be
shaped to directly match the size and shape of the tumor and limit the
exposure to normal tissues. Another major difference from current
technologies is the way that radiation hits the treatment area. A single beam
of radiation is modulated, or broken up, into smaller “beamlets”, which are
delivered in a helical pattern, from any point in a 360° radius around the
patient. Typically, tens of thousands of beamlets are included in this unique
delivery pattern. With that many beamlets, delivered from all angles around
the patient, dose conforms to the tumor and avoids critical organs like never
before, giving our patients a greater hope for cure and higher quality of life.
The TomoTherapy not only targets tumors with unmatched precision, it also
allows us to deliver different dose levels to the tumor as required for optimal
treatment. We no longer have to make the compromises that we used to have
to make when using old-fashioned technologies and traditional techniques.
The side effects of radiation therapy are related to the part of the body that’s
being treated. Normal tissues, depending on where they are in the body,
respond in a variety of ways when exposed to radiation therapy. If we have a
sensitive structure near a tumor we can shape the radiation fields to
completely avoid those structures. For example if we are near the spinal cord
and need to deliver a high dose to the tumor we can avoid causing damage
to the nerve that could lead to paralysis yet still give enough treatment to
eradicate or control the tumor and prevent the tumor from causing the same
paralysis if left unchecked. When treating in the head and neck region we
tend to see a reduction of sore throat or dry mouth or some of the other
issues that are a common when using standard traditional methods.
Anyone who needs radiation therapy as part of their cancer treatment is a
candidate for TomoTherapy. TomoTherapy can be used to treat a wide variety
of cancers, from the most common to the most complex. Cases that are the
most difficult benefit the most from TomoTherapy. Cancer patients that
traditionally would have been treated with surgery or chemotherapy are
seeking out TomoTherapy due to its non-invasive nature and improved
ability to spare healthy tissues.
Because of the way TomoTherapy system is designed we are able to conform
our radiation dose to fit any size or shape of tumor. As the machine rotates
around the patient and selects from a variety of different treatment beams, it
can focus in on that tumor from a variety of different treatment angles. The
summation of all these treatment angles allows for a conformal dose deposit
the dose in the tumor so we are able to shape our radiation fields to match
any size or shape tumor. The advantage of this is we can avoid nearby critical
structures if they are adjacent to tumors and we can follow the response of
these tumors as they respond to our daily treatments.
The Grand Opening of the new TomoTherapy Radiation Therapy Center takes
place on the campus of St. Mark’s Hospital on Friday, January 13. The
Ribbon Cutting will take place at 10:00 AM and an Open House will run
through 2:30 PM. You can learn more by contacting Gamma West Cancer
Salt Lake City, Utah 84124