CyberKnife: Tumors Have Nowhere To Hide

A new radiosurgery system takes precision and versatility to the cutting edge

The word radio tends to evoke thoughts of nostalgia, an electronic wonder of the past that everyone turned to for music before the days of MTV, or even TV itself. But radiosurgery, a non-invasive alternative to traditional surgery for the treatment of tumors, is stepping straight into the future and never looking back. Combine radiosurgery with flexible, image-guided robotics and you have the CyberKnife, the latest state-of-the-art technology to be installed in the Nancy N. and J.C. Lewis Cancer Pavilion. The advanced ability of the CyberKnife Robotic Radiosurgery System is like music to the ears of St. Joseph’s/Candler’s radiation oncologists.

“The CyberKnife allows me to provide a pain-free procedure to treat tumors anywhere in the body,” says John A. Pablo, M.D. “With this tool, I can deliver high doses of radiation to small areas with phenomenal accuracy.”

The pinpoint precision of the CyberKnife helps to minimize damage to the healthy tissue surrounding the tumor. Its accuracy is measured in sub-millimeters.

“This technology utilizes real-time tracking,” Pablo says. “If the patient or the tumor itself moves slightly, the CyberKnife can see where things are moving and correct for that motion.”

The real-time tracking, which can continuously detect the tumor’s location, is in perfect sync with another unique advancement of this technology—the ability to aim radiation beams from up to 1200 different angles. In addition, the CyberKnife is frameless, which means that patients won’t have to experience the discomfort and inconvenience of being immobilized by a head or body frame as with traditional radiosurgery. This treatment also eliminates the need for overnight hospital stays that often come with traditional surgery. It can usually be completed within one to five sessions.

 Because its radiation beams can be delivered from over 1200 different angles, the CyberKnife can treat malignant tumors anywhere in the body— the brain, prostate, liver, lung, pancreas, and head & neck, as well as brain and bony metastases and lesions inside and outside the skull. It can also be used to treat benign (non-cancerous) tumors that may affect quality of life.

“If something is benign but it’s next to your optic nerve, for example, it can potentially blind you if it grows,” Pablo says. “This again shows how advantages of the CyberKnife work together seamlessly. It can track and correct for any slight motion, and deliver the radiation with incredible accuracy.”

The combination of sub-millimeter accuracy and robotic versatility of the CyberKnife creates the possibility of treating tumors that were once considered inoperable. Its capability is not only important to radiation oncologists but also neurosurgeons that practice at St. Joseph’s/Candler.

“We work hand in hand with the neurosurgeons in administering this radiation treatment,” Pablo says. “It’s a real team approach.”

Patients should be equally impressed with the benefits of CyberKnife after the procedure. With no incisions, no anesthesia, and no blood loss, patients will not have to endure the long recovery times that can result from traditional surgery. Simply put, the CyberKnife is so cutting edge that it doesn’t need to cut at all.

What Kind Of Knife Has No Blade?

The CyberKnife, like its predecessor the Gamma Knife, does not actually contain a knife within its mechanism. The Gamma Knife was named so by its creator, Professor Lars Leksell, because of its ability to accurately conform the high dose of radiation to the shape of the tumor. This allowed the Gamma Knife to act, in essence, as a surgeon’s scalpel.

As the latest advance in the evolution of stereotactic radiosurgery tools, the newest development was dubbed the CyberKnife. Dr. Pablo believes the new name was coined to convey the highly technological nature of the machine.

Because there is no actual knife, the CyberKnife procedure doesn’t involve anesthesia or incisions. This practically eliminates the risk of infection associated with traditional surgeries.
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