Cooley Dickinson Unveils Cutting-edge Radiation Oncology Technology

NORTHAMPTON — Cooley Dickinson Hospital recently purchased state-of-the-art radiation oncology equipment and began treating patients with this technology.

For patients undergoing radiation oncology treatments, the Elekta Synergy can significantly shorten daily treatment times. It also delivers the radiation dose more precisely to the tumor while minimizing the impact to the surrounding healthy tissue. Dr. Linda Bornstein, chief of Radiation Oncology at Cooley Dickinson, said that, “with the Elekta Synergy and its many features designed to benefit patients, we can treat cancer more precisely and aggressively than ever before.

“Patients in our community have access to the latest radiation oncology treatment technology available,” she added, noting that leading cancer centers such as Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center have purchased the same technology.

According to Elekta, Cooley Dickinson’s Radiation Oncology Suite is the first in New England to implement the Elekta Synergy that has the ability to perform volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT).

Elekta Synergy includes built-in software programs to ensure the safe delivery of radiation therapy. Craig Hansen, radiation therapy manager, said Cooley Dickinson’s radiation therapy quality and safety program complies with mandated state and federal guidelines and exceeds best-practice standards that have been set by the hospital.

“The safe delivery of radiation therapy is of utmost importance to the physicians, nurses, physicists, radiation therapists, social workers, and administrative staff who comprise a patient’s treatment team,” said Hansen.

Cooley Dickinson’s approach to safety and quality assurance includes pre-treatment checks performed by dedicated staff on all treatment plans, charts reviewed weekly by the treatment team and in peer-review chart rounds, and monthly quality assurance meetings to develop strategies to improve care and reduce the risk of errors.

Prior to receiving radiation, Hansen said, a patient’s radiation therapy prescription goes through multi-step pre-treatment checks. To ensure accuracy, a patient’s treatment plan is developed, reviewed, and tested by three experienced radiation therapy clinicians. Also, the Elekta Synergy computer software includes duplicative steps designed to verify the radiation prescription.

“As a final step before treatment, we conduct a dry run to verify the imaging,” added Hansen. Finally, a radiation oncologist signs off on the plan.

In addition, Cooley Dickinson invested in upgrades to its entire radiation therapy computer systems and linear accelerators to ensure the systems exceed quality-assurance standards.

Patients undergoing radiation treatments for cancer are treated with a linear accelerator, equipment that produces a radiation beam of either electrons or high-energy X-rays. The beam is adjusted to match the patient’s tumor shape.

In the majority of cases, radiation therapy is given as fractionated treatment, meaning that patients receive a daily dose of radiation five days a week for two to seven weeks, depending on the individual treatment plan. At each daily treatment, the radiation beam is given from different angles to ensure that the entire tumor receives an optimal radiation dose. The geometry and intensity of the radiation field is adjusted to the tumor’s size and shape and also to the type of cancer that is treated. The treatment beam is shaped with a multileaf collimator that functions much like the aperture on a camera.