When it comes to removing a tumor, surgery is usually the first option that is presented.
While that option is the most common and can be effective, there are patients for whom surgery is a dangerous alternative. Tumors can be located in areas that are too critical to treat with surgery or external beam radiation therapy because of how invasive the procedures are. Surgery may be unable to reach areas near the spinal cord, optic nerve or some parts of the brain without putting those critical areas in danger, and external radiation may do too much damage for those with small tumors near important tissue that could easily be destroyed by radiation.
An answer to that is the CyberKnife Robotic Radiosurgery System.
The CyberKnife system is a non-invasive alternative to surgery for treatment of both cancerous and non-cancerous tumors anywhere in the body, including the prostate, lung, brain, spine, liver, pancreas and kidney. The robotic system can treat a tumor with radiation with 1.2 millimeter precision, targeting the tumor alone and sparing the surrounding healthy tissue. The system can also adjust treatment and take into account a patient's breathing pattern and movement.
According to PinnacleHealth Department of Radiation Oncology Director Dr. Brij Sood, CyberKnife provides a number of benefits for patients seeking cancer treatment, including a lower overall dose of radiation.
"The patient does this as an outpatient process," Sood said. "They come in, and they go home. The treatment targets the small tumor, so only a small amount of radiation hits anywhere else on the body. The side effects during the treatment, immediately after the treatment and months down the road are even less than external beam radiation therapy."
New cancer center
The CyberKnife system is one of the new pieces of technology that will be used at the PinnacleHealth-Fox Chase Regional Cancer Center, which is set to open in early April. Along with CyberKnife, the center will also offer state-of-the-art treatment with Trilogy with RapidArc Radiotherapy and High-Dose Brachytherapy.
Having the technology to do procedures is only one half of why the PinnacleHealth staff are excited to open the new facility. The cancer center team will also get some help from the Fox Chase Center, which has been using CyberKnife for a year, and be able to coordinate patient care.
"We can have cancer conferences in conjunction with Fox Chase," said Sood, who will be the director of the new center. "Patients don't have to go to Fox Chase (in Philadelphia) to get treatment. We'll be capable of providing treatment and research trials, and if we need information, we can get answers directly from Fox Chase."
The new facility is currently under construction on the campus of PinnacleHealth's Community General Hospital on Londonderry Road in Harrisburg. The cancer center will actually be attached to the hospital, so patients can receive all their care and treatment at one of the two buildings.
According to Betsy Kopp, director of cancer services and research at PinnacleHealth, the cancer center will include an outpatient diagnostic area, a treatment area and administrative offices. The facility will also house various physicians, including radiation oncologists, the radiology team and the staff at the Breast Care Center, who are temporarily housed in the Bloom Building on the same campus. Infusion procedures will also be done at the new facility, which will include blood infusions and chemotherapy.
Kopp noted that more services may be available at the cancer center as construction continues.
"The building is being fitted with two additional floors," she said. "That's where we are taking our time to plan what to have there. It's been a long process to get this together. It evolved from our desire to include care and new things to serve our cancer patients. Everyone's on board. We're pretty excited about this."