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New IMRT technique used for first time on head and neck cancer patient

A new treatment platform designed to streamline the way therapeutic radiation is delivered to cancer patients has been used for the first time at Penn Medicine.

The Varian Halcyon system has the ability to shorten the amount of time patients spend in treatment, and in some cases cut the length of each session by more than half.

It was also designed to offer a more user-friendly approach for experts administering the treatment with the goal of making it easier to train new therapists.

The first treatment was administered to a patient with head and neck cancer this month.

The platform was designed with the goal of making it easier for technicians to use, involving just nine steps instead of the 30 or more that are currently involved on standard radiation therapy platforms.

Testing conducted at Penn has shown that the radiation itself was delivered comparably to traditional platforms -- or in some cases more accurately -- while working at roughly twice the speed.

Because of the increase in speed, the platform means that patients spend less time undergoing each treatment session.

In the case of the first patient treated, it took just 13 minutes to set up the therapy room, take images of the patient, apply the therapy, and break the equipment down.

The patient was under the beam for just three minutes.

In a typical case using other radiation technology, the whole process would have taken more than 20 minutes, including 10 minutes of total beam time.

In addition to head and neck cancer, Penn physicians plan to use Halcyon to treat breast and cervical cancer, as well as to shrink tumours for symptom relief among patients with metastatic cancers.

Source: Perelman School of Medicine

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