Skip to Content

Published on August 25, 2008

New Technology Aid in Radiation Therapy

August 25, 2008

The Illinois Regional Cancer Center, DeKalb, has implemented new technology that enhances the ability to precisely locate a patient’s cancerous tumor in order to pinpoint the exact area of the body to receive the radiation therapy.  IGRT, or Image-guided Radiation Therapy, uses images taken immediately before each radiation therapy session and compares them to CT images taken during the pretreatment phase. This comparison accounts for daily tumor location changes due to internal organ movement or slight body position differences while the patient is on the treatment couch.

To use the IGRT technology, a surgeon implants three tiny markers made of pure gold into the body marking the tumor edges. These markers are no bigger than 3 mm. The implant procedure is quick and relatively painless and is completed under ultrasound guidance. Once the markers are implanted, the radiation oncologist obtains a CT scan and begins the treatment planning process.

Each day, when the patient arrives for treatment, the radiation therapist obtains a new image of the patient using equipment built into the treatment machine. She then compares this new image to the image taken during the pretreatment phase.  She lines up the implanted markers on both images and, using localization software, calculates any movements that need to be made in positioning the patient on the treatment couch. These movements are usually extremely small but provide extreme accuracy in locating the tumor. 

Benefits to the IGRT technology are decreased radiation exposure to healthy parts of the body. Because the radiation is extremely localized, side effects are kept to a minimum.

IGRT with the implantable gold markers is used to treat prostate, breast and brain tumors.  Gold markers are not used for head and neck cancer treatment because implanting them in these areas of the body is very invasive. Instead of aligning markers on the images, radiation therapists use “bony landmarks,” or specific landmarks within the skeletal framework, to line up the new and previously obtained images. 

Dr. Bharati Bhate, radiation oncologist and director of the Illinois Regional Cancer Center, says she is very excited to bring to the community the newest technology in radiation therapy to more accurately treat patients.   “It is very satisfying to know that our patients receive the best possible care,” Bhate said.

Illinois Regional Cancer Center,10 Health Services Drive, DeKalb, is a member of KishHealth System.

Footer Curve