Center is first in New England with new technology designed to precisely track and treat cancerous tumors
New magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) guided radiation therapy technologies, designed to improve the targeting and treatment of cancerous tumors, have been added to the Department of Radiation Oncology at the Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, making it the first site in New England to be able to provide advanced, real-time, pinpoint-accurate MRI-guided radiation therapy planning and treatment for cancer patients.
There are two components to this new technology program. The MRI Advanced Procedure and Simulation (MAPS) unit provides diagnostic quality images of the patient, in advance of treatment, for precise radiation planning and subsequent treatment delivery. The MRI LINAC combines an MRI scanner with a linear accelerator to provide real-time, high-contrast soft tissue imaging, enabling clinicians to directly view and continuously image a tumor while simultaneously targeting it with precise radiation therapy. The new system is the world’s first FDA-approved cancer treatment to combine MRI technology with radiation therapy. Patient treatment on the MRI-LINAC begins on October 7.
“These new technologies offer substantial clinical benefit by providing greater resolution of soft tissue tumors and allowing for more precise tumor targeting and less radiation exposure, thus sparing healthy tissue,” said Raymond Mak, MD, lead radiation oncologist for MRI-Guided Radiation Therapy at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center. “This cutting-edge technology may establish a new standard of care for image-guided radiation therapy, allowing us to fine-tune the radiation treatment plan and personalize and adapt each treatment in ways we never could before.”
The new MRI-guided radiation therapy will be used to treat many different cancer types. Its greatest potential advantage will be in treating soft-tissue tumors — including breast, gastrointestinal, gynecological, prostate, pancreas, sarcoma, and head and neck tumors — and for tumors that are highly mobile, such as lung cancers.
“Every so often transformative change occurs in what we can offer our patients to improve their cure rates and decrease their potential side effects,” said Daphne Haas-Kogan, MD, chair, Department of Radiation Oncology, Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center. “This MRI-guided radiation therapy technology is one of those moments of transformative change.”
Under the current standard of care, physicians use CT imaging to determine a tumor’s location and target it for subsequent radiation therapy. Depending on the tumor’s type and location, it can be difficult to accurately visualize the tumor, and the therapy planning can take a week to complete. The integrated MRI technology will allow clinicians to adapt the therapy to changes in the patient’s body, such as movement caused by breathing or digestion, and deliver radiation only when the tumor is in the proper position. This accuracy is designed to help reduce radiation toxicities and improve patient outcomes.
“To put it simply, this allows us to adapt daily treatments to what we see at the exact time of treatment, instead of what we saw on previous images taken possibly days or weeks earlier,” Mak said. “Adaptive treatment plans that are personalized to the real-time location of the patient’s tumor and organs can be developed in an hour, with the patient in the treatment room.”
The MAPS unit is an MRI scanner, modified for radiation therapy planning, which includes a high-field strength (3.0T) magnet that allows for diagnostic quality imaging for improved targeting of the tumor. The MRI-LINAC is a state-of-the art hybrid device that integrates a modified low-field (0.35T) MRI scanner with a high-energy linear accelerator used for cancer therapy.