What is the Cyberknife and How Can it Treat Prostate Cancer?
When you first walk into the room, you’re struck by the size of the machine. It’s big, standing close to seven feet high. It’s also thick, and has a rounded, futuristic look to it. Yet, this thing seems a bit familiar, too. It looks like something you might have seen on an assembly line.
The technological marvel is called the Cyberknife Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT) system, and it features an advanced robotic arm with articulating joints.
The conventional prostate cancer treatment uses Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT). This involves radiation entering the body from 8-10 different directions, all of which are on the same plane.
The Cyberknife treatment is different. It delivers radiation to the prostate from 140-220 different directions — all from different planes.
This is possible because of the range of motion of the robot arm, due to its articulating joints. The radiation
device situated at the end of the arm can move about the patient while still pointing toward him, and deliver the radiation treatment from multiple angles. As a result, the adjacent soft tissues receive less radiation exposure.
The other unique aspect of the Cyberknife is that it incorporates a tracking system that can “lock-on” to the prostate. This is necessary to compensate for inherent organ motion during the course of each treatment.
About three weeks before the patient’s first Cyberknife treatment, gold markers are implanted into the patient’s prostate. Then, at the time of the treatment, two sensor units located to the left and right of the patient detect the gold markers and provide coordinate data to the Cyberknife. If the patient’s prostate moves slightly, the tracking system detects it and automatically adjusts its robot arm’s aim.
The advantages of Cyberknife are not just in its advanced technology, either. It’s a treatment that can be accomplished by an OHC radiation oncologist in just five visits. OHC physicians Peter Fried, MD, Jeff Grass, MD, and Elizabeth Levick, MD provide the radiation oncology expertise needed for patients being treated at the The Urology Center, the only location in the region using Cyberknife to treat prostate cancer.
Not only is this a huge convenience for many men, but the side effects may be less severe than other forms of radiation used to treat prostate cancer.
Emerging data suggests that the SBRT treatment for prostate cancer has a lot of potential for select patients, with more convenience and fewer side affects. It is an effective treatment option, depending on the patient’s unique situation and physician recommendations.
The hope for the CyberKnife is that it will allow our prostate cancer patients to get back to their normal routine quicker, feeling more like themselves. Hopefully, the CyberKnife will make their cancer experience seem more like a bump in the road, instead of a major detour.