Delivering the Latest Advances in Radiation
New technologies for radiation
therapy are providing patients with
certain types of cancer significant
improvements in treatment options.
More than half
of all people
diagnosed with cancer use radiation as
part of their treatment plan, according
to the National Cancer Institute, as
high doses of radiation are capable of
killing cancer cells.
Gamma Knife® Radiosurgery
At the Joan Karnell Cancer
Center at Pennsylvania Hospital,
several new methods of delivering
radiation therapy provide patients
with additional treatment options.
Among them, Gamma
radiosurgery successfully treats many
benign and malignant tumors in the
head or skull base.
“Gamma Knife delivers very
precise radiation to a specific area of
the brain,” says John
chief of the Department of Radiation
Oncology at Pennsylvania Hospital.“Because
it is so precise, the healthy tissue around the
lesion is less likely to receive any residual
The Penn Gamma
Knife Center at Pennsylvania Hospital, directed by
Y.K. Lee, MD, Neurosurgery,
offers the most technologically
advanced Gamma Knife available. It
is a highly advanced machine that
delivers 201 beams of radiation to a
specific location in the brain or skull.
This precise delivery of the radiation
helps decrease the risk of exposure or
damage to surrounding normal tissue.
Patients generally receive only one Gamma Knife treatment and typically feel little or no discomfort. In fact, most patients go home the same day.
surgery, physicians perform advanced mapping
of the lesion using magnetic
resonance imaging (MRI), computerized
tomography (CT) scans and, in some cases, angiograms.
Once the specifics of the lesion are
determined, the patient undergoes the
gamma knife procedure.
“The success of the
dependent upon the type and size of
lesion you are treating,” says Dr.
Glassburn, “but the risk of damaging
healthy tissue is much less with
Gamma Knife than it would be in
many cases with surgery.”
Patients generally receive only one
Gamma Knife treatment and typically
feel little or no discomfort. In fact, most
patients go home the same day.
seen a high success rate for patients with meningiomas,
neuromas and arteriovenous
malformations,” says Dr. Glassburn.
The procedure is also being used to treat
patients with pituitary
malignant brain tumors and benign
tumors at the base of the skull.
“It may not be for every patient,”
says Dr. Glassburn, “but it's an
important treatment option. We have
one of most vigorous programs in the
area and treat a higher volume of
patients than most hospitals.”
Karnell Cancer Center at
Pennsylvania Hospital also looks
forward to offering the MammoSite®
radiation therapy system. Generally used
for patients with early and less aggressive
breast lesions, MammoSite provides
radiation therapy to a localized area of
the breast, rather than treating the entire
“The majority of breast cancer
reoccurrences occur at the site where the
original tumor was removed,” says Dr.
Glassburn. “The idea with MammoSite
is to reduce the risk to this area.”
The procedure involves inserting a
small, soft balloon attached to a thin
catheter inside the lumpectomy cavity.
A tiny radioactive source in the balloon
delivers radiation to the cavity. Generally,
the procedure works best in locations not
close to the skin in order to prevent any
residual radiation damage to healthy
A typical course of treatment
involves radiation delivery to the site
twice a day for five days. “A normal
course of radiation therapy for these
patients would be 6-1/2 weeks,” says Dr.
Glassburn. “So, MammoSite can be a
much more convenient option for patients.
And preliminary data suggests it is as
good as standard therapy, if used for
For more information
radiation therapy options at the Joan
Karnell Cancer Center at Pennsylvania
Hospital, call 800-789-PENN (7366). You can also
request an appointment