Radiation Oncologists at St. Bernards Cancer Center are using AlignRT, the premier radiation therapy guidance system, to help fight cancer – and at the same time protect the heart.
The system is particularly useful in treating patients who have cancer in the left breast, brain and lung.
The goal of radiation therapy is to deliver radiation to the cancer but to protect surrounding healthy tissue from exposure to potential damage.
And for people with cancer in the left breast, it is especially important to protect the heart.
The AlignRT by Vision RT is considered the premier surface guided radiation therapy imaging tool. It tracks a patient’s position before and during radiation therapy, aiding in setup and treatment. Using proprietary three-dimensional camera units, it tracks the skin surface and compares it to the ideal treatment position with submillimeter accuracy. It is designed to signal automatically for the treatment delivery system to pause radiation if the patient moves out of the desired position – and it eliminates the need for “tattoos” or additional radiation.
Patients treated for left sided breast cancer had a small yet significant increased risk of heart disease decades after treatment. However, studies indicate that AlignRT, when used with Deep Inspiration Breath Hold (DIBH), effectively eliminates heart perfusion defects down the road. Of the breast cancer patients treated in a recent study, none showed heart radiation damage after six months (compared to 27 percent in a previous study without the surface guidance radiation therapy tool).
Patients lie on their backs during treatment, and gravity pulls the heart down. When combined with DIBH, the heart is positioned as far from the chest as possible. When the chest is in the right position, the AlignRT turns on the radiation beam.
AlignRT’s SRS (Stereotactic Radiosurgery) module enables high accuracy required for certain brain cancers to be treated in a single treatment.
With AlignRT’s ability to track motion less than 1 mm, the treatment team also is able to perform SBRT (Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy) for certain lung cancers in as few as 3 to 5 treatments vs previously requiring up to 30 individual treatments. The patient is tracked in real time, and the radiation is stopped if the patient moves out of correct position. This allows the St. Bernards team to maintain a focus on quality, safety and the patients’ well-being.