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Stamford Hospital uses CyberKnife to treat cancer


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Speedy recovery: Stamford Hospital uses CyberKnife to treat cancer

By Devon Lash

Staff Writer

Posted: 01/06/2009 02:47:57 AM EST

Doug Walker, a school bus driver, underwent CyberKnife treatment for his prostate cancer at Stamford Hospital. He said he returned to work sooner than he would have with traditional treatment. CyberKnife delivers accurate beams of radiation to eradicate tumors. (Paul Desmarais/Staff photo)STAMFORD - Doug Walker dressed for the first bout of radiation for prostate cancer like he was going to the beach - Hawaiian shorts, sneakers and a T-shirt.

After the four-hour session of radiosurgery at Stamford Hospital's Tully Health Center, Walker, 59, headed to the beach.

"I jumped in the water and went swimming," the Stamford man said. "I never felt like a cancer patient."

Walker is one of about 52 patients who have been treated with CyberKnife technology since it began to be offered in June, said Dr. Frank Masino, the director.

CyberKnife delivers accurate beams of radiation to eradicate tumors.

"Some of the patients we treat today, up until six months ago I would have had to sincerely say I can't do anything for you because we didn't have that ability," Masino said. "It does not replace conventional radiation or surgery. But it complements it. It's another tool for cancer treatment."

More than 50,000 patients have been treated worldwide by CyberKnife, according to the manufacturer, Accuray.

The system creates a treatment plan based on images from CAT scans and MRIs, said Dr. Sean Dowling, a radiation oncologist at the Bennett Cancer Center and the CyberKnife Center.

The patient lies on the hard surface beneath the machine while CyberKnife, mounted on a robot, takes constant X-ray images of the tumor, comparing it to the treatment plan, Dowling said.

The system can make sub-millimeter corrections in six directions, he said. Once lined up

properly, it delivers high-dose beams of radiation, sparing the surrounding tissue, Dowling said.

Patients can be treated as outpatients for an average of one to five visits, with noanesthesia or rigid immobilization, he said.

The minimal recovery time enticed Walker, a driver for Student First, a bus company that transports special-education students.

"I wanted to wait until the (school) year ended," he said. "The kids get used to you."

Within two weeks, he said he was back at the gym and did not miss a single day of work.

Depending on the type and severity of the cancer, the treatment can be as effective as conventional surgery, Dowling said.

"There is good evidence radiosurgery can be as effective for some brain metastasis, but in other places in the body, conventional surgery is more effective," he said. "For patients that cannot have conventional surgery, this is certainly a reasonable alternative."

The treatment is not a miracle cure, he said.

"Unfortunately, there are situations and conditions that can't be treated," Dowling said. "For instance, esophageal cancer is not suitable for CyberKnife."

CyberKnife requires nearly exact tracking of the tumor, and the esophagus can't be tracked closely enough for it to be safe, he said.

Sometimes, CyberKnife can't destroy the root of a disease and acts like a Band-Aid.

Drew Stephansen, 68, of Brookfield, worked in construction until he retired in August after his third round of chemotherapy for late-stage lung cancer.

Doctors found in April that the cancer had metastasized to his brain. Like the tumor in his lung, it was inoperable with conventional surgery, but doctors decided to use CyberKnife.

"It was not like any hospital experience I ever had," said Stephansen, one of the first patients at the CyberKnife Center. "There was no physical invasion. It basically cut out the tumor by radiation."

A single hour-longCyberKnife procedure did what eight rounds of chemotherapy could not - it shrunk the tumor in his brain, he said.

"You can look at the X-rays and see the difference yourself," Stephansen said.

Because it is wrapped around his bronchial tube, the tumor in his lung is not a candidate for radiosurgery, he said, but at least the brain tumor is "one less thing I'm going to die from."

- Staff Writer Devon Lash can be reached at devon.lash@scni.com or 964-2242.

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HI Randy.....Thanks for posting that. It makes me ever more hopeful of a successful outcome using the cyberknife.

In the past week I have seen my oncologist, the head of radiology & a neurosurgeon at Roper Hospital in Charleston, SC where they have the cyberknife.

I have two brain mets......one the size of a grape, the other a pea. So I have my daily "fruit & veggie" .....lol.

Yesterday they made the mask, did another CT of my brain & yet another MRI of my brain. They think they will do the procedure sometime toward the end of next week.

After that is finished I will be starting Avastin (infusion once every 3 weeks) & Tarceva (pill form at home) trying to shrink up some lymph nodes on the mediastinum & also some very little lesions in my left lung. Supposedly that is a good combo for older patients & I am getting older by the day thankfully.

And so it goes.......thanks again for the info.......Creekgirl

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PSSST , Age is just a number! And it doesnt Mean Much anyways!! good luck and keep us posted on your treatments and how your Cyberknife goes!! Can be inspirational for others coming along the road some day in the future!!

Prayers ANd Hugs!!!!

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  • 2 months later...

Updating on the cyberknife treatment. I had it done on Jan. 16 at Roper Hospital in Charleston, SC.

It took over an hour as I had both done at the same time rather than coming back again for the smaller one.

I had to wait for 2 months to give the radiation all the time it needed to shrink the tumors so I didn't get another MRI until Mar. 23. I saw the neurosurgeon the next day & he showed me the MRI.......no tumors to be seen! HAPPY DANCE here.

I go again in 6 weeks for another MRI. The doctors want to stay on top of this & I want them to.

The procedure itself was a piece of cake. And it really wasn't that difficult to remain still during it. If it had been a little quieter I might have taken a short nap...lol. :lol:

I'm still doing the Tarceva & Avastin and not having too many side effects except for the spike in my blood pressure. Of course they gave me a med. for that. Now, lets hope there are no side effects to the bp med.

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