Penn treats patient with next-generation radiation technology

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Penn Medicine is the first healthcare provider in the world to treat a cancer patient with next-generation radiation technology that delivers therapies in record time.

According to Penn, the Halcyon radiotherapy system from Varian Medical Systems has the ability to shorten the amount of time patients spend in treatment, and in some cases can cut the length of each session by more than half.

“We helped Varian develop the technology over the past couple of years,” says James Metz, MD, chair of Radiation Oncology at Penn. “The time reduction is a big improvement for patients, particularly for many of our patients who are immobilized and not in the most comfortable positions. When you can reduce that treatment time in half, which we can do with this technology, that’s a lot less time, and from a patient experience standpoint, it’s significantly improved as we’re able to do this more efficiently.”

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Halcyon was also designed to make it easier for technicians to use the platform through a streamlined process, requiring only nine steps from start to finish instead of the 30 steps necessary on standard radiation therapy systems. Penn put the system through its paces demonstrating that the radiation was delivered comparably to traditional platforms—or more accurately in some cases—while working at roughly twice the speed.

Earlier this month, a treatment was administered to a patient at Penn with head and neck cancer. The total time in treating the patient—including set-up, imaging, three minutes of beam time and patient discharge—was just 13 minutes. Generally, a treatment using other radiation technology for such a complex case can take 10 minutes of beam time and 20 minutes total time to treat the patient.

“The first patient treatment is a major milestone for the Halcyon system,” said Kolleen Kennedy, president of Varian’s Oncology Systems business, in a written statement. “Working closely with leading institutions like Penn Medicine, helped shape the human-centered design focus of Halcyon and our ability to deliver a system that simplifies and enhances virtually every aspect of image-guided volumetric intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT). We are excited to see treatments commencing and continuing our efforts of advancing cost-effective cancer care worldwide.”

Instead of having a large C-arm that moves in an arc around the patient while delivering radiation therapy, Halcyon has a donut-hole gantry with moving parts hidden. The gantry conducts a full rotation around the patient four times faster than a conventional C-arm design.

Metz contends that Halcyon reduces the total cost of ownership with shielding built into the gantry, which means it requires about one-third less room shielding—and, he says the system uses about half the electrical power requirements of a typical linear accelerator.

In addition, the platform’s patented dual-layer multileaf collimator (MLC) provides fast beam modulation to better conform to tumors, according to Metz.

Penn plans to use the system to treat breast and cervical cancer as well as to shrink tumors for symptom relief among patients with metastatic cancers.

“We think this is going to have pretty wide applicability across the cancer care spectrum,” concludes Metz. “We really see this as a workhorse at our center at Penn. We’ve installed the first system and we’re actually going to install a second one here in the spring of 2018.”

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