Since its inception, cancer treatment has been tricky – researchers and physicians alike must walk the delicate line of delivering just enough radiation to kill cancerous tumors while trying to avoid damaging the healthy tissue that surrounds the tumor. Current radiation treatment relies on imaging scans which are taken prior to the treatment. While this method works well, it only works if the tumor lies in an easily detectable and immobile location.
But, what happens if the tumor is located near the lungs and moves each time a patient breathes? Targeting tumors in hard-to-reach areas like the above using traditional imaging scans can be difficult, as the tumor is constantly moving. The Elekta and Phillips Research Consortium on MRI-Guided Radiation Therapy is tackling the issue by developing a significant improvement over the current technology.
The new system combines radiation therapy with MRI technology and allows physicians to view the tumor in real-time and in high detail during treatment. In doing so, physicians are able to change the radiation treatment throughout the procedure, effectively avoiding the healthy tissue while avoiding side effects. The new MRI-linac has not been officially released, but the pieces are starting to come together. Several institutions have already installed the initial components, and the project is currently under review at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.