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New Technology Aims To Better Treat Cancer

SEATTLE – When Gene Montgomery was diagnosed with prostate cancer, he knew he didn’t want to go through the pain and recovery of surgery. Thanks to Seattle’s newest technology, he didn’t have to.

“It was so easy going, you wondered if the machine was doing any good or not. It was that easy,” laughed Montgomery. Swedish Medical Center is now using what’s called a CyberKnife. The $4 million robotic arm was the first of its kind in the Pacific Northwest.

It sends out precise doses of radiation to tumors. Unlike conventional treatment – which sends radiation in one blast to a larger area – the cyber knife delivers it from different angles within a millimeter of the tumor. That reduces damage to surrounding tissue.

“This is the first of its kind, the first machine that’s been able to track motion,” said Dr. Sandra Vermeulen, Co-Director of the Seattle CyberKnife Center.

The CyberKnife moves when the patient moves, so a vice to keep a patient perfectly still isn’t needed. And since the radiation tracks the tumor, not healthy tissue, the dose can be higher. “Thus increasing our chance for a cure, while minimizing collateral side effects,” said Montgomery’s Radiation Oncologist, Dr. Robert Meier. The CyberKnife, developed at Stanford and manufactured by Accuray Inc., treats tumors in the brain as well as other parts of the body including the lungs, liver and the prostate, which conventional radiation can’t reach. That means in many cases, it can replace surgery.

“I thought it was exciting being part of something so new. I really did,” said Montgomery. Next month Montgomery will find out if the prostate cancer is gone. His doctor says the outlook is good — a 90 percent chance that with this new technology, he will be cured.

Swedish Medical Center is now home to the new CyberKnife — a $4 million robotic arm that can pinpoint radiation to a cancerous tumor, thus increasing odds of success in treatment.

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