Thursday, January 29, 2009

MGH Cancer Center now offers pencil-beam proton therapy treatment

New technology allows more precise shaping of radiation dose to tumor tissue

Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Cancer Center has added pencil-beam scanning to the radiation therapy modalities offered at the hospital's Burr Proton Therapy Center. While conventional proton therapy can restrict the area to which radiation is delivered, which reduces the dose to healthy tissues, pencil-beam scanning allows even more precise shaping of the beam's range and dosage to a three-dimensional target area.

The MGH Proton Therapy Center staff helped develop pencil-beam scanning in collaboration with the Belgian company Ion Beam Applications (IBA) and Pyramid Technical Consultants. IBA received U.S. Food and Drug Administration for pencil-beam scanning on Dec. 12, 2008; and the first patient to receive this at the MGH was treated on Dec. 22, 2008.

“By making proton treatment delivery even more precise, pencil-beam scanning is a significant step forward in the clinical use of proton therapy,” says Thomas F. DeLaney, MD, medical director of the Burr Proton Therapy Center.

Proton therapy takes advantage of an inherent quality of the positively charged atomic particles. As they travel through tissues, protons release most of their energy in a concentrated burst near the end of their range, which allows the beam to be focused extremely precisely and spares surrounding structures. Hanne Kooy, PhD, associate director of the Burr Center, explains that pencil-beam scanning involves actively moving the proton beam throughout the volume of a tumor. “This improved technology allows us to offer our patients a new dimension in flexibility and efficiency.”

The MGH Cancer Center has used proton therapy to treat a variety of benign and malignant conditions since 1961 and in 2001 opened the Burr Proton Therapy Center, which at the time was the second hospital-based center in the world. “I am tremendously excited to see pencil-beam technology brought into a hospital environment, and we are proud to be among the first hospital-based proton centers to implement this modality,” says Jay Flanz, PhD, technical director of the Burr Center.

An integral part of one of the world's most distinguished medical centers, the MGH Cancer Center is chosen by more cancer patients than any other hospital in New England. Through a powerful synergy between scientists in the laboratories and physicians at the bedside, the center fosters innovation in basic, translational and clinical research.

Founded in 1811, Massachusetts General Hospital is the oldest and largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. Offering offers sophisticated diagnostic and therapeutic care in virtually every specialty and subspecialty of medicine and surgery, the 900-bed medical center each year admits approximately 46,700 inpatients, handles more than 1.4 million visits to its extensive outpatient programs, and records more than 77,000 emergency visits. The surgical staff perform almost 36,000 operations annually, and the MGH Vincent Obstetrics Service delivers more than 3,500 babies a year. The largest nongovernment employer in the city of Boston, the MGH has more than 22,500 employees, including more than 3,500 registered nurses. MGH and Brigham and Women's Hospital are founding members of Partners HealthCare System, a Boston-based integrated health care delivery system, and MGH is consistently ranked among the nation's top hospitals by US News and World Report.

Katie Marquedant,, 617-726-0337

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