A powerful new cancer-fighting tool is headed to Baton Rouge, and doctors at Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center are eager to use it.
“To do things better than we used to be able to do is very exciting,” said radiation oncologist Renee Levine, M.D.
The Cancer Center will only be the fourth facility in the U.S. to get the Leksell Gamma Knife Icon. It’s an advanced radiation machine used on brain tumors and other benign (non-cancerous) conditions of the head. It’s a non-invasive alternative to brain surgery.
“This (machine) is incredible. It allows us to treat to .15 millimeter accuracy,” Levine said.
That accuracy matters when firing high dose radiation at critical structures inside the brain. The Gamma Knife Icon comes equipped with an onboard CT imaging system and motion tracking technology that adjusts to the patient's movements without having a frame attached to their skull.
Under the guidance of a medical physics team, the machine also allows doctors to make real-time adjustments once treatment begins.
“Let's say their treatment is halfway done,” Levine explained. “You can look to see where the dose has been already and make instantaneous corrections during the treatment. No other system can do that.”
Cancer Center doctors are also collaborating with colleagues at the NeuroMedical Center to create a Multidisciplinary Care Team. The group will work together to treat cancers of the brain and central nervous system, as well as other painful conditions like trigeminal neuralgia. That rare disorder requires a targeted dose of radiation on the nerve right next to the brain stem.
“The treatment can take someone's pain away and can do it for the rest of their lives. This pain is so bad it has a nickname called the ‘suicide disease,’”
The $4.5 million Gamma Knife Icon will be installed in July. Crews will have to remove a section of roof to drop the machine into place. Doctors hope to begin treating the first patients with the machine in October.
Currently, Gamma Knife Icon is only available at three facilities in the U.S., including Sutter Medical Center (Sacramento, CA), Roswell Park Cancer Institute (Buffalo, NY) and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, (Pittsburgh, PA).