Saint Anne’s Hospital Regional Cancer Care offers advanced non-surgical therapy for the treatment of lung and other cancers

Friday, July 13, 2012

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For patients with early-stage lung and certain other cancers that require treatment but cannot be treated surgically, Saint Anne’s Hospital Regional Cancer Care now offers an advanced treatment called stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT).

What is SBRT?

SBRT is an advanced form of radiation therapy that dramatically reduces the number of treatments while providing a much higher degree of precision. It is used to care for patients who require cancer treatment but cannot undergo surgery because of other medical conditions.

Offered primarily in academic medical centers, SBRT is similar to another form of radiation therapy called stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS). Introduced in 2010 at Saint Anne’s Dartmouth campus, SRS is used to treat brain and other central nervous system tumors. It is similar to SBRT in that it provides a greater combined, highly precise dose of radiation in far fewer treatment sessions. However, SBRT is different because it treats cancers in areas of the body outside of the central nervous system, typically those in the lungs, spine and liver.

Complex technology, effective treatment

SBRT treatment planning uses advanced four-dimensional CT and PET/CT to map a tumor’s exact location and its movement with breathing, as well as the patient’s unique anatomy and other important information. SBRT treatment is unique in that is typically administered over the course of just three to five sessions, compared to other therapies that may require 30 or more sessions.Raymond L. Dugal, MD, Chief of Radiation Oncology, Saint Anne's Hospital Regional Cancer Care

Raymond Dugal, MD, Saint Anne’s chief of radiation oncology and a member of the staffs of Brigham and Women’s Radiation Oncology and Harvard Medical School, (right) notes that SBRT is usually offered only at academic medical centers. Saint Anne’s is one of just a few community hospitals in Massachusetts to offer SBRT.

“SBRT is complex and requires a high degree of experience, expertise, and collaboration among team members,” explains Dr. Dugal. “Because of its complexity, and the need to ensure the highest degree of patient safety, our team of physicians, physicists, dosimetrists and radiation therapists collaborated with our colleagues at Brigham and Women’s Hospital for more than a year in planning for SBRT.”

Dugal notes that the use of SBRT will expand to treat other tumors that cannot be treated with conventional radiation techniques because of prior radiation therapy, as well some metastatic cancers (those that have spread from an original location).

“For carefully selected patients, SBRT is highly effective in sparing normal tissue in and around critical organs and has few side effects,” explained Dugal. “It offers results comparable to surgery, and it can be done right in our patients’ community. It’s wonderfully gratifying to offer an advanced therapy that has such compelling advantages.”

Other locally available advanced cancer-fighting tools

In addition to SBRT and SRS, Saint Anne’s Hospital also offers these radiation therapies:

  • Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT): three-dimensional treatment of brain, head and neck, lung, pelvic region, and other cancers.
  • Image guided radiation therapy (IGRT): for tumors in areas that may move with normal breathing, such as in the chest or abdomen, or due to the effects of radiation.
  • High-dose rate radiation therapy (HDR): precisely calculated radiation delivered at a high dose rate via a catheter directly to a tumor or tumor bed. Used for gynecologic, skin and early breast cancers, as well as palliative therapy to relieve pain associated with certain cancers.
  • Radioactive prostate seed implant therapy: involves the placement of 50 to 100 radioactive seeds, each smaller than a grain of rice, inside the cancerous area of the prostate, thereby eliminating major surgery.
  • Fiducial markers: These are gold “seeds,” each about the size of a grain of rice, that are inserted into the prostate by a urologist. These help radiation oncologists to pinpoint the exact location of a tumor via X-ray for accurate radiation therapy each day.

Learn more about Saint Anne’s cancer care services.  

Saint Anne’s Hospital is a community hospital with comprehensive inpatient, outpatient, and emergency care services, serving adults and children in southeastern Massachusetts and nearby Rhode Island.  Founded in 1906 by the Dominican Sisters of the Presentation, Saint Anne's Hospital is a member of Steward Health Care, the largest fully integrated community care organization in New England.  Saint Anne’s specialized centers and services include Saint Anne’s Hospital Regional Cancer Care; the Robert F. Stoico/FIRSTFED Center for Breast Care; Steward Diabetes Care Program; the Steward Centers for Pain Management; geriatric psychiatry; orthopedics; pediatrics (including inpatient care and specialty outpatient medical, behavioral and developmental care through the Fernandes Center for Children & Families); adult and pediatric rehabilitation; cardiovascular care; and primary care.

Steward Health Care is the largest fully integrated community care organization in New England.  Headquartered in Boston, Steward is the third largest employer in MA with more than 17,000 employees serving more than one million patients annually in 85 communities.  Hospitals in the system include Saint Anne’s in Fall River, Holy Family Hospital in Methuen, St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton, Norwood Hospital, Carney Hospital in Dorchester, Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton, Nashoba Valley Medical Center in Ayer, Merrimack Valley Hospital in Haverhill, Morton Hospital and Medical Center in Taunton, and Quincy Medical Center in Quincy.  Other Steward Health Care entities include Steward Medical Group, Steward Hospice and Home Care, Labouré College, and Por Cristo. 

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