New machine kills prostate cancer fast

Todd Tilton is getting a new targeted rapid-fire radiation treatment to treat prostate cancer. In 90 seconds, Todd's entire treatment for the day will be done.

"By giving faster treatment -- a more accurate treatment -- based on the image guidance that we're able to do, we are able to keep the radiation away from normal tissues," said Dr. Shawn Zimberg, radiation oncologist.

Dr. Zimberg placed several gold markers inside Todd's prostate to help guide the lasers.

"Those markers serve as a beacon for the precise, exact location of the prostate," said Dr. Zimberg.

Technicians line up the markers and turn on the radiation. The beams continually adjust to the 3-D anatomy and avoid normal tissues.

"With RapidArc, what we're able to do is treat a patient in one single rotation, as opposed to multiple beams that can also be injuring the other tissue," said Dr. Zimberg.

"I'm getting it more concentrated so they can give me less and in this case, less is better," said Todd Tilton.

Radiation time is cut from up to 20 minutes to just a minute-and-a-half, leaving Todd more time to do what he really loves.

For this sailor, this new targeted radiation treatment was his best option. He felt surgery, with its risks of incontinence, was too high.

Side effects are rare using this technique, but could include pain while urinating and diarrhea.

Todd is in his first few weeks of radiation. He gets it five times a week for nine weeks. He's saved more than 24 hours at the doctor's office -- meaning more time on the water.

"If I could take you out and just show you just how beautiful it is out there, it's good to be alive," said Todd Tilton.

RapidArc is being used in ten centers across the U.S. including one in Beverly Hills. By this time next year, the company expects it to be available in a thousand centers nationwide.

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According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, an estimated two million men in the United States are currently living with prostate cancer. Every two and a half seconds someone is diagnosed. The risk of the disease increases with age. A man under 40 years of age has a risk of one in 10,000, but for 40 to 59-year-olds, it jumps to one in 39. For someone age 60 to 69, it is one in 14.

A man's risk of developing prostate cancer is 35 percent greater than a woman's risk of breast cancer. The cure rate for prostate cancer is very high. Almost 100 percent of men whose prostate cancers are detected in the local and regional stages will be disease-free after five years.


Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) is used to attack cancerous tumors or specific areas within a tumor. Radiation therapy like IMRT prevents cancer cells from dividing and growing, which slows tumor growth. Many times the therapy shrinks or even eliminates tumors by killing cancer cells.

In addition to prostate cancer, IMRT Is also currently used to treat breast, thyroid, and head and neck cancers as well as gynecologic, liver and brain tumors, lymphomas and sarcomas. It is also used to treat pediatric cancer. IMRT treatment involves using computer-aided X-ray accelerators to deliver exact doses of radiation.

The radiation conforms to the three-dimensional shape of the tumor, minimizing exposure to surrounding normal tissues. Using 3-D computed tomography (CT), treatment is mapped beforehand and a computer calculates the customized doses.


Volumetric intensity modulated arc therapy (VMAT) represents an advance in IMRT. The VMAT device Shawn Zimberg, M.D., a radiation oncologist at Radiation Oncology Associates of Long Island in Lake Success, N.Y., uses is called RapidArc, which provides all the benefits of IMRT, but two to eight times faster and more precisely. The radiation can be delivered in just one arc, or rotation, of the machine around the patient. It takes less than two minutes compared to six to eight minutes for conventional IMRT.

According to Varian Medical Systems in Palo Alto, Calif., the developers of RapidArc, the technology improves patient comfort by reducing the amount of time the patient must spend lying on the treatment couch. They also say it can increase the amount of patients a clinician can see each day. Studies conducted by Varian researchers show RapidArc technology can be beneficial when compared to conventional IMRT and helical IMRT. When targeting cancer of the nasopharynx, the computerized plans on where the radiation would be targeted were equivalent or better. When it came to protecting vital areas like the spinal cord, brainstem, eyes, optic nerve and brain, it proved superior. RapidArc reduces radiation stray, on average, by more than 50 percent.


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