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Published on April 24, 2014

Cone Health Cancer Center Creates Novel Use of Cameras to Improve Patient Safety

Cone Health Cancer Center researchers find that a system that monitors patients during radiation therapy can do much, much more. They are using cameras and computers to make treatments safer and more effective while reducing unnecessary radiation patients may receive.

The system is called AlignRT®. Computers and six cameras collect Alighn imagethousands of data points creating detailed 3-D images of patients. Cone Health Cancer Center physicists determined they can use the images to position a patient on a radiation treatment table to within 1 mm accuracy. Traditionally patients are tattooed and the tattoos are aligned with three lasers. Even then the patient is often X-rayed and adjusted and X-rayed again to make sure they are in the best position for treatment.

“Our goal is to accurately target the cancer with as much radiation as we can while sparing the nearby healthy cells and structures. This means the patient’s tumor has to be in exactly the right position,” says Cone Health Cancer Center Senior Physicist David Wiant, Ph.D. “Getting several X-rays at the start of every radiation treatment carries risk, too. With this approach, we greatly reduce those X-rays.” Wiant has been asked to speak on this process at a Vision RT user’s group forum this May. (Vision RT is the manufacturer of AlignRT.)

“For the first time doctors can watch the patient with a very high level of accuracy and correct for any small movements improving our treatments,” says Cone Health Chief Physicist B.J. Sintay, Ph.D. This allows Cone Health doctors to better use “breathe and hold” techniques for breast cancer patients. Taking a deep breath fills the lungs with air moving the breast tissue away from the heart, reducing radiation to the heart. Seeing a detailed image allows the radiation to be turned off when the patient begins exhaling. “Breast cancer patients live so much longer today. We believe reducing radiation exposure to the heart will avoid problems 15 or 20 years down the road,” adds Sintay. Cone Health Cancer Center will begin exploring using AlignRT assisted breathe and hold techniques for other cancer patients such as those with liver cancer and lung cancer.

The system is so accurate that it can tell if a patient moves her jaw or face. This allows Cone Health Cancer Center to treat brain and head and neck cancers without the patient having to wear a face mask that prevents movement during treatment.

Cone Health Cancer Center is one of the few places in the world that has been able to do anything like this,” adds Sintay. “It is an extra level of safety that ensures we get radiation therapy in the right place at the right time.”

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