A True Beam

Advanced technology for radiation therapy.

Cancer can be complicated. In many cases, the cause of a cancer’s development is unknown or complex and poorly understood. On the other hand, the fundamentals of cancer are straightforward and well recognized. That knowledge is the inspiration behind radiation therapy as a cancer treatment.

Rahul Chopra, MD

Cancer is defined as uncontrolled cellular division. When cells are dividing, they use their DNA, which is essentially the instruction manual on how to divide. With cancer, the cells continue to divide and use their DNA 24/7. When this occurs, especially with cells that don’t typically actively divide, such as those in the brain, they eventually form a mass, a tumor.

Radiation therapy works as a cancer treatment by interrupting the cancer cells’ dividing process.

“Radiation is basically packets of high energy that work at the molecular level,” says Rahul Chopra, MD, an oncologist at Cancer Care Centers of Brevard. “During radiation therapy, this energy is directed into the tumor where the DNA architecture of the cancer cells is disrupted. The cancer cells no longer have their instruction manual for dividing and building new cells. Therefore, the cancer cells die off because they are not able to perform their normal functions.”

Radiation therapy is generally used instead of or in addition to surgery to remove cancerous tumors. It is typically the treatment of choice when a patient’s tumor is not reachable through surgery, not completely removed during surgery or when patients are not candidates for surgery.

The past decade or so has seen the development of many advanced techniques for using radiation to kill cancer cells. These include intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT). These techniques allow radiation oncologists to better reach tumors with the radiation beam during treatment.

The machine used to deliver these types of radiation therapy is called a linear accelerator. Cancer Care Centers of Brevard use the latest technology linear accelerator to provide these advanced techniques of radiation therapy. It’s called the TrueBeam® radiotherapy system.

“The TrueBeam allows radiation therapists to perform the full gamut of radiation oncology,” Dr. Chopra elaborates. “With it, we can provide IMRT and IGRT as well as stereotactic body and brain radiation therapy (SBRT), another technique for aiming the radiation. The TrueBeam is a highly precise form of radiation therapy and enables us to deliver very focused volumes of radiation therapy to destroy tumors throughout the body.”

Another technique that can be performed with the TrueBeam is volumetric-modulated arc therapy, or VMAT. VMAT is a more comprehensive form of IMRT. With VMAT, radiation oncologists can shape the radiation dose around the tumor in a three-dimensional volume.

During VMAT, the radiation oncologist can sculpt the radiation around critical structures in the body. They are able to give a high dose of very conformed radiation right around the tumor and avoid areas such as the spinal cord, esophagus, heart and other organs.

“VMAT is often used on metastatic brain tumors that develop from cancers that commonly spread to the brain, such as lung, breast and kidney cancer,” Dr. Chopra educates. “At Cancer Care Centers of Brevard, we have achieved good rates of controlling tumors in the brain with this technology, 85 to 90 percent in some cases.

“SBRT does not involve surgical incisions, so it is generally less risky than traditional surgery. With traditional surgery, patients may have risks of complications with anesthesia, bleeding and infection.”

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    • Cancer Care Centers of Brevard

      For over 25 years, their mission has been to provide a compassionate setting for patients and their families. They believe in the dignity of all patients living with cancer and respect their physical, emotional and spiritual needs. At Cance... Read More

    • Rahul Chopra, MD

      Rahul Chopra, MD, is board certified in radiation oncology by the American Board of Radiology. He received his medical degree from the University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville, where he earned honors in research. He then co... Read More