“The MR-Linac will enable us to deliver higher doses of radiation to cancerous tumors more accurately and safely…and is also uniquely suited to the treatment of tumors that cannot be treated with standard technologies.” Tom Colonias, MD, Director of Thoracic Malignancies, AHN Cancer Institute
May 14, 2021
Elekta Unity MR-Linac System Combines MRI Guidance with Radiation Dosing to Minimize Harm to Healthy Tissue When Treating Malignant Tumors
Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Cancer Institute is one of just six U.S. health systems, and the first in western Pennsylvania, to begin treating cancer patients with the Elekta Unity MR-Linac, an innovative first-of-its-kind technology that combines diagnostic quality Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and linear accelerator radiotherapy in one interactive machine to more accurately and safely eradicate malignant tumors.
The unique capabilities of the Elekta Unity MR-Linac allow doctors to better visualize and target radiation doses to the precise shape and location of tumors, during each treatment session, minimizing the risk of harm to healthy nearby tissue and structures. The MR-Linac is located at AHN’s Cancer Institute hub at Allegheny General Hospital.
“With the MR-Linac, we are able to offer patients the most sophisticated, effective and personalized radiation therapy possible for their specific diagnosis and tumor characteristics,” said David Bartlett, MD, Chair, AHN Cancer Institute. “Investment in this unique technology is just another example of how we are transforming cancer treatment at AHN.”
Candidates for treatment on the Unity MR-Linac include patients with prostate, liver, pancreas and metastatic tumors as well as some patients with recurrent tumors. AHN physicians will also be studying treatment of head and neck, lung, breast and other gastrointestinal malignancies.
Patients are pre-screened for treatment eligibility, and if eligible undergo a simulation that allows doctors to begin the planning process. Patients beginning treatment are positioned as they would be for an MRI scan, and doctors and physicists ensure that the radiation beam is aligned with the patient’s tumor. As the treatment continues, doctors and physicists watch the MRI images and change the plan as the tumor moves or changes shape.
Treatment on the MR-Linac is a non-invasive procedure and most patients can return to their normal routines following treatment. Each session typically lasts less than an hour.
“We are thrilled to bring this highly advanced capability to our cancer patients,” said AHN Director of Thoracic Malignancies, Radiation Oncology, Tom Colonias, MD.“The MR-Linac will enable us to deliver higher doses of radiation to cancerous tumors more accurately and safely.”
“The MR-Linac is also uniquely suited to the treatment of tumors that cannot be treated with standard technologies, including recurrent, or previously irradiated tumors, and we will be studying how best to use the MR-Linac for these challenging cases,” Dr. Colonias added.
Other U.S. centers using the Elekta Unity MR-Linac include the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin Clinical Cancer Center, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and the University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center. Together with the AHN Cancer Institute, and an international group of top cancer centers, the organizations are all part of the MR-Linac Consortium, a global research partnership established to help bring MR/RT to the clinic and transform the use of radiation therapy in the treatment of cancer.
About Allegheny Health Network – and the AHN Cancer Institute
Allegheny Health Network, a Highmark Health Company, is a western Pennsylvania-based integrated healthcare system that serves patients from across a five-state region that includes western Pennsylvania and the adjacent regions of Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, and New York. The Network’s Cancer Institute employs more than 200 physicians and 500 oncology professionals who provide a complete spectrum of oncology care at 24 affiliated oncology clinics, including access to state-of-the-art technologies and new therapies being explored in hundreds of clinical cancer trials. The Cancer Institute has the only cancer program in the Pittsburgh region accredited as an Integrated Network Cancer Program by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer, and its radiation oncology program is the largest in the country accredited by the American Society for Radiation Oncology. AHN Cancer Institute is a Quality Oncology Practice Initiative certified practice, and is accredited by the Foundation for Accreditation of Cellular Therapy, National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers and the National Accreditation Program for Rectal Cancer. AHN also has a formal affiliation with the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, one of the nation’s 41 comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute, for research, medical education and clinical services.
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