Clinical therapies and technologies
An estimated 60 percent of all cancer patients receive radiation therapy as part of their treatment. VCU Massey Cancer Center offers state-of-the-art treatment options, national and institutional clinical trials and the latest technology.
Massey’s researchers are spearheading a $10.7 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to develop even better ways to target tumors through radiation while avoiding “collateral damage” to healthy tissue. In this way, Massey scientists are inventing the next generation of radiation therapy.
Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy rays or implanted radioactive pellets to treat cancer. The radiation is administered either externally or internally. When external, Massey uses cutting-edge technology to aim these rays directly at cancer tumors; our patients benefit from Massey’s research and technologies that enable radiation to be delivered in less time with more effectiveness and precision than ever before.
Radiation therapy is used for a variety of reasons:
- To kill cancer cells
- To keep the cancer from spreading
- To slow the cancer's growth
- To relieve symptoms that may be caused by the cancer
- To ease pain due to cancer
The Department of Radiation Oncology at Massey continually acquires the best in new technology to enable it to continue offering the latest and most precise modes of radiation delivery to patients. “With our extensive research and advanced training programs in radiation oncology and biology, utilizing the latest technology is a natural extension of our clinical offering,” said Mitchell Anscher, M.D., chair of the department. “Manufacturers often seek our expertise while they are in the research and development phase of new technology, and such collaborations ensure that the technologies we adopt are ones that we believe will offer improved modalities and outcomes for patients.”
A primary goal at Massey is to reduce or eliminate side effects through treatments that deliver radiation with ever greater degrees of precision. Side effects that do occur and their level of severity depend on the area being treated and the intensity (dose) of the radiation treatment.
Massey offers patients forms of radiotherapy to cover all possible treatment capabilities:
- Image-guided radiation therapy and stereotactic radiosurgery
- Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
- AccuBoost for breast radiotherapy
- Hyperthermia therapy
Researchers at Massey opened a clinical study that will assess the safety and effectiveness of a new device — a small, biodegradable balloon — intended to allow doctors to treat prostate cancer with higher doses of radiation while sparing other tissues. A patient enrolled at Massey is the first in the U.S. to have this therapy.
Lead investigator Dr. Anscher explains the procedure: “The balloon is implanted into the space between the prostate and the rectum, and then inflated with about three tablespoons of water to create a physical gap.” This gap reduces the radiation level reaching the rectum, thereby enabling more aggressive radiation to the prostate, which has been shown to be more effective than low-level radiation.
“We are also looking to see how much the radiation dose to the rectum is reduced by this procedure, in the hope that this will significantly reduce the risk of rectal complications,” Dr. Anscher said.