CyberKnife - Laser-Beam Focus on Treating Cancer

June 5, 2014

Although he hesitated, William O’Donnell of South River couldn’t help but to use the word “cool” to describe his CyberKnife® treatments for prostate cancer at Saint Peter’s University Hospital. “I don’t like to say that it was cool to have the CyberKnife. I suppose getting a new Mercedes is cool, but if you are getting treated for cancer, this is the only way to do it,” he recalled. “CyberKnife doesn’t touch you and there’s no pain and very few side effects.” Mr. O’Donnell underwent five treatments for prostate cancer, and just as he did after the first treatment, he went back to his usual routine soon after. “There really was no problem,’’ he says. 

CyberKnife is the only FDA approved, completely robotic stereotactic radiosurgery system available in the world that targets and destroys tumors or lesions anywhere in the body including the prostate, lung, brain, liver, kidney, neck, spine, and pancreas. The radiosurgery system does not remove the tumor, but instead distorts the DNA of tumor cells so that they lose their ability to reproduce altogether. 

Treatments are pain-free and noninvasive, performed as an outpatient procedure in the Radiation Oncology Department at Saint Peter’s. Each session lasts between 30 to 90 minutes, with the average treatment plan requiring only three sessions. Comparatively, conventional radiation therapy treatments, including proton therapy, require as many as 40 sessions. 

CyberKnife technology is appropriate for use on patients whose prostate cancer remains localized, says Gopal Desai, M.D., chair of Radiation Oncology at Saint Peter’s. “Radiosurgery expands the repertoire of cancer treatment therapies and adds a new and exciting tool in the fight against cancer,” says Dr. Desai. “Outcomes have been positive and promising.” 

CyberKnife offers new treatment options for patients with a cancer diagnosis of both early and late stage diseases including recurrent cancers, metastatic cancers or cancers that move to other places in the body, and certain high-risk patients. Dedicated to the prevention, detection and treatment of lung cancer, Saint Peter’s utilizes CyberKnife technology to ablate early-stage and inoperable lung tumors in patients. This technology is particularly useful for patients with severe Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and other external risk factors, even for those patients who have an identified nodule that cannot be biopsied. 

Treatment Process

The CyberKnife team includes a radiation oncologist, a urologist or other surgeon, a physicist, a radiation therapist, and a nurse. Patients are initially evaluated by this multidisciplinary team of experts. If the patient is a good candidate for CyberKnife treatment, and depending on the treatment site, small metal gold markers called fiducials may be implanted to accurately target radiation from the CyberKnife. The patient then undergoes a CT scan with contrast. In some instances, an MRI scan may be necessary to visualize the tumor and affected area(s). 

The ability to do this is one of the features of this advanced technology. This contributes to healthier outcomes, says Alan Katz, M.D., a leading researcher and world renowned expert in the use of CyberKnife treatment for prostate cancer who recently joined Saint Peter’s. “In data I recently presented at The American Radium Society more than 500 patients treated with CyberKnife have been followed for as long as eight years after treatment. Control of the prostate cancer has been exceedingly high, even better than with a nine-week course of radiation,’’ says Dr. Katz. “This is true for patients with less as well as more aggressive disease. Toxicity was mild and quality of life scores obtained from the patients show excellent preservation of bowel, urinary and sexual function.” In the treatment of prostate and other cancers, the CyberKnife System reduces the risk of post-treatment complications, such as infection, hemorrhage, or loss of sense of feeling occasionally associated with conventional surgery. CyberKnife is especially useful against prostate cancer, not only for its ability to eradicate the tumor but for its ability to spare the healthy surrounding tissue and minimize unwanted side effects. 

CyberKnife at Saint Peter’s

The CyberKnife treatment experience at Saint Peter’s allows patients to receive treatment and continue their daily life with little or no interruption. As was Mr. O’Donnell’s experience, CyberKnife treatments are painfree and completely noninvasive, with no hospitalization or recovery time. CyberKnife at Saint Peter’s offers a convenient pain-free treatment option to patients. 

“Nobody likes to hear their name and cancer in the same sentence,” says Mr. O’Donnell. “But like I said, CyberKnife is the way to go if you have to deal with it.”

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