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Year in Review 2013: Southwestern Illinois

Alton Memorial Hospital now offering upgraded, image-guided cancer treatment

     Innovative medical technology is allowing a radically different approach to treating cancer at Alton Memorial Hospital.
    The hospital’s Radiation Oncology Center has begun treating cancer patients with image-guided radiotherapy using a new TrueBeam system from Varian Medical Systems.
    Dose-delivery rates are 40 percent to 140 percent higher than earlier generations of Varian technology, allowing for faster treatment. Doctors say the change offers greater patient comfort by shortening treatment times and improves precision by leaving less time for tumor motion during dose delivery.  
    The AMH Cancer Care Center, now known as Medical Office Building C, reopened in late May after being closed since February for a $4 million technology upgrade and building renovation. The TrueBeam linear accelerator and a Phillips Brilliance CT Big Bore simulator were installed in the process.
     “TrueBeam makes it possible to deliver accurate image-guided treatments within a few minutes per day,”  Dr. Joel Simmons, medical director of Radiation Oncology, said previously. Alton Memorial is the only cancer center in Illinois south of Springfield to offer the treatment.    
    TrueBeam can be used for many advanced treatments, among them stereotactic radiosurgery, more specifically stereotactic body radiotherapy, a newly offered form of radiation therapy treatment.
     “This is unlike surgery in the sense that it is non-invasive and doesn’t come with the potential acute surgical complications, such as blood loss, infection or a lengthy inpatient hospital stay,” Simmons said.
     “By using proper immobilization techniques, image guidance and multiple radiation beams, we are able to pinpoint higher doses of radiation therapy to the tumor and get more accurate results than ever before. By increasing the dose per treatment we are able to significantly decrease the number of treatments needed. A traditional lung treatment may typically take seven weeks of daily treatment, whereas with stereotactic body radiotherapy we can accomplish it in as few as three treatments.”
    SBRT is already the standard of care for certain cancers such as inoperable non-small cell lung cancer, he said, and it’s showing promise in other areas as clinical trials are conducted.
    “For us to have this technology available for the Alton community is an amazing investment in the community and benefit to the patients,” he said.
    The TrueBeam comes with the ability to deliver arc therapy.
     “Traditional treatments can be uncomfortable for patients,” Simmons said. “You’re lying on a cold, hard table — sometimes for 20 or 30 minutes at a time. The machine and the table rotate to different positions to accomplish the various treatment angles. With arc therapy, instead of repositioning the machine and table, we can accomplish the entire treatment in one or two swooping arcs. This can result in a 30-minute treatment being delivered in three minutes.”
    Alton Memorial has forged a partnership with Washington University that allows planning of the radiation treatments to be performed by Washington University staff.