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Radiation machine could cut cancer treatments in half

TrueBeam linear accelerator, now at Stanford Cancer Center, can drastically cut down on treatment time and open up more types of cancer to radiation therapy.

TrueBeam linear accelerator
The TrueBeam linear accelerator for cancer radiation treatments
Varian Medical Systems

The Stanford Cancer Center today unveiled a breakthrough radiation machine it hopes will let patients spend less time getting treatments and more time living their lives.

By delivering radiation at a faster dose rate, the TrueBeam linear accelerator can shorten individual treatment times by up to a half compared with treatments from traditional machines, according to a statement from the center.

The TrueBeam's treatments can also more accurately target cancerous tumors than typical machines do. That's thanks, in part, to a 4D imaging system that captures views in 60 percent less time than in previous machines, which results in less blurry images. It can target cancerous tissue with the precision of less than 1 millimeter by checking against 100,000 data points every 10 milliseconds.

The TrueBeam system is also able to account for the miniscule movements caused by patients' breathing during treatment. The machine monitors those movements and only emits radiation when the tumor is within a given range.

What all that means is that the overall duration of treatments could be reduced from several weeks to several days. It could also mean more types of cancer can be treated with radiation now. Previously, certain tumors in highly sensitive tissue--like the lungs, liver, and deep tissues--weren't good candidates for radiation therapy because of the likelihood of destroying the surrounding organs in the process of killing the tumor.

The Stanford Cancer Center says it is the first center on the West Coast and the fifth in the world to offer patients treatment with the TrueBeam system, which is made by Palo Alto, Calif.-based Varian Medical Systems.