Radiation Oncology

Treatments

Gamma Knife®

Gamma Knife therapy is one of the most precise, powerful and proven treatments for brain disorders. At Penn Medicine, it is a highly developed treatment for brain tumors, skull base tumors, and other brain disorders.

Gamma Knife therapy does not involve surgery. Instead, it focuses 201 precise beams of radiation directly on the tumor. Individually, the beams are too weak to damage healthy tissue. Together, they converge to deliver powerful treatment to a single point.

To establish the target for the radiation, Penn physicians create detailed maps of the brain using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) or angiography. They then determine the precise amount of radiation needed to treat the cancer.

Like other forms of radiation therapy, Gamma Knife therapy damages the cancer cells and prevents them from multiplying. After treatment, the tumor stops growing and, in many cases, it disappears over time.

The Advantage to Patients

There are many advantages to Gamma Knife therapy:

  • Precision: The customized dose of radiation targets only the diseased tissue, leaving the surrounding healthy tissue intact.
  • Safety: Patients generally require only local anesthesia and mild sedation; there are no incisions and no risk of infection, bleeding, and other possible complications that come with cutting into the skull and exposing the brain.
  • Effectiveness: Usually only one treatment is required; it is especially effective for cancer that has spread from other areas of the body, and offers new hope to patients with deep-seated brain lesions or skull base tumors once considered inoperable.
  • Technologically advanced: The Gamma Knife is robotically controlled, allowing surgeons to deliver radiation more precisely, safely and faster than ever before.

Type of Cancer Treated with Gamma Knife

Currently, Gamma Knife is being used by Penn Cancer Services to treat brain tumors.