Duke first to use new tumor machine

March 26, 2008 4:44:21 PM PDT
Doctors at Duke Medical Center are the first in the world to begin using a machine called the Novalis Tx that delivers radiation to patients with precise accuracy while minimizing damage to healthy tissue.

Patrick Gallagher is one of the first patients treated with the Novalis Tx at Duke. While battling two brain tumors, he considers himself lucky to have the technology available so close to his home.

"I was amazed that I was able to get the cutting edge technology at this time of having the tumor," Gallagher said. "If you have to have [a tumor] now is the time to have one."

Duke is the first medical center in the world to utilize the non-invasive technology for radiosurgery to target tumors and other lesions.

"It's almost like magic in how well it works," said Dr. John Kirkpatrick, a radiation oncologist at Duke. "It can deliver a higher dose to tumors which means we can get better control over a tumor and at the same time avoid the normal structures in the body."

The Novalis Tx works by delivering a powerful beam of radiation directly to the spot being treated. In Patrick Gallagher's case, two tumors on the brain are being treated. The beam is so precise; it can deliver the radiation with less than a millimeter of error.

"We can take extremely complex lesions and precisely shape the beam so we can contour and conform the dose of radiation," said Kirkpatrick. "So, it closely, extremely closely, matches the size and shape of the tumor." Doctors use a CT scanner and take x rays during treatment to make sure they're following the well mapped out and computerized treatment plan. Patients usually only require up to three treatments.

"You don't feel anything," said Gallagher. "You just stay still and it's over before you know it. I was done in less than an hour. We left and went to dinner that night. We were fine. I feel great, I'm feeling better everyday."

Everyday, Patrick Gallagher still feels lucky to have been one of the first in the world to use the latest technology to battle his brain tumors.

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