The Image-Guided GammaKnife Story

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Leksell-Gamma-Knife-Icon-2GammaKnife radiosurgery uses many high-intensity beams of radiation focused on a single small spot to treat brain cancer and other conditions requiring precise ablation. Almost 70,000 patients worldwide receive GammaKnife radiosurgery each year, which involves first taking high-resolution images of the brain with CT or MRI, and then affixing a stereotactic head frame that will be used to accurately line up the patient with the Perfexion GammaKnife for treatment. This frame can be uncomfortable and unpleasant.

Working in partnership with Elekta, Techna researchers led by Dr. David Jaffray developed a cone-beam CT imaging solution for the GammaKnife system. Now fully commercialized as the Elekta GammaKnife Icon, this image-guided GammaKnife has the ability to image a patient on the treatment bed, ensuring treatment accuracy without the need for the invasive head frame.

The image-guidance capabilities also open new ways of using the radiosurgery device, which Elekta is exploring further in partnership with researchers from UHN. For example, fractionated radiation treatment—where a patient receives multiple radiation treatments but at lower doses thus giving healthy irradiated tissue time to heal between treatments—is a common technique that is used for other radiation therapy devices. The head frame has so far made the use of fractionated approaches difficult on the GammaKnife; the new image-guided capabilities of the Icon will allow researchers to explore these options and add another tool in the fight against cancer.

Techna researchers also recently received a grant to co-develop an educational program with Elekta to help drive knowledge translation and optimize the use of these new capabilities in the clinical setting.