Innovative Radiation Machine Homes in on Tumors

TrueBeam linear accelerator

A new radiation machine that could potentially reduce treatments by half is making inroads this week on the West Coast. The TrueBeam linear accelerator, made by Varian Medical Systems, was unveiled yesterday at the Stanford Cancer Center, reports CNet; and the Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles, WA, voted on Wednesday to buy the $2.7 million machine, reports the Peninsula Daily News. One oncologist said the purchase was like upgrading from an old 35 mm film camera to a digital one.

The TrueBeam delivers radiation at a faster dose rate, and it does so while essentially "locking on" to the tumor in question. An advanced imaging system can target tumors with a less than 1 mm precision, something it achieves by checking 100,000 data points every 10 milliseconds. As a patient breathes, causing tiny movements, the machine is able to account for those movements and selectively deliver radiation when the tumor comes into range. "It essentially follows the target," said Tara Lock, director of the Olympic Medical Cancer Center. Depending on whom you ask, this could reduce treatment time anywhere from 50 to 75%, and it also makes some previously untreatable tumors--those too close to vital organs--now within medical reach.

Varian's TrueBeam website says it took the inspiration for its innovative machine, in an odd way, from cancer's tactics itself. "Cancer is about change. So is destroying it."

[Photo credit: Varian Medical Systems]

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