February 01, 2012
TrueBeam Stereotactic Radiosurgery Sends "Surfer Jack" Hamlett Back to the Beach
Surfer Jack, once a serious competitor riding the waves off San Diego and other California beaches, grew up to be a successful entrepreneur. He provides supplemental science education to elementary schoolers without losing his youthful outlook, enthusiasm, energy — or physique.
TrueBeam STx Radiosurgery Technology:
A non-invasive radiosurgical and IMRT (intensity modulated radiation therapy) technology, it synchronizes high-intensity treatment beams of radiation to an imaging system, allowing doctors to "see" the tumor they are treating. The system gives doctors the ability to customize treatments for the patient's specific cancer, and its speed means most treatments take just minutes per session.
"During a recent physical, the doctor told me I was in phenomenal shape for a man in his 50s," 62-year-old Paradise Valley resident Jack Hamlett said with a chuckle. "Except for a knee I blew out a couple of decades ago, I've never been sick."
So it came as a bit of a shock when his family doctor referred him to an ear, nose and throat specialist after examining his throat during this year's routine wellness check. The ENT specialist sent him for a PET scan and ordered biopsies of the mass growing in Hamlett's throat.
Tests showed Hamlett had one of the most common cancers, squamous cell carcinoma. To expedite and maximize Hamlett's care, the doctor personally scheduled an appointment by calling his friend, John J. Kresl, MD, PhD, FACRO, medical director for Phoenix CyberKnife and Radiation Oncology Center.
John J. Kresl, MD, PhD, FACRO
According to Dr. Kresl, a major advantage for their cancer patients is the variety of high-tech treatments they offer — CyberKnife VSI Robotic Radiosurgery, TrueBeam Stx Radiosurgery and Multi-Source HDR Brachytherapy.
"We are the first and only facility in the world that has all three modalities," Dr. Kresl said.
TrueBeam radiation, combined with chemotherapy, was Hamlett's treatment of choice. "It took 34 radiation treatments and nine sessions of chemo," Hamlett said. "It wasn't painful, but some of the time I felt like a zombie. It wore me out."
The attention from doctors and clinical staff couldn't have been better, he said, and his final PET scan showed he was "100 percent cancer clear. These people were the best."
Through a recent agreement, John C. Lincoln is now working cooperatively with Phoenix CyberKnife to make its state-of-the-art stereotactic radiosurgery services available to Health Network cancer patients.
CyberKnife's Tissue-Saving Technology
The quantum leap in CyberKnife's effectiveness is what drew Dr. Kresl, a board-certified radiation oncologist, to the technology.
CyberKnife VSI Robotic Radiosurgery System:
A non-invasive alternative to surgery, this stereotactic radiosurgery system uses image-guidance and computer-controlled robotics to deliver multiple beams of precise high-energy radiation to treat tumors with sub-millimeter accuracy from virtually any direction. The state-of-the-art software allows the system to track tumors that move and account for tumor or patient motion on the fly. This spares surrounding healthy tissue from radiation exposure.
"The traditional challenge in radiation oncology," he said, "is balancing the amount of radiation administered. You have to deliver enough radiation to ablate, or eliminate, the cancer tumor without delivering so much radiation that it harms surrounding tissue. This has always been a very fine line."
CyberKnife's groundbreaking sub-millimeter precision and innovative stereotactic — or three-dimensional — radiosurgery technology makes it possible to escalate the radiation dosage to ablate the cancer cells without exposing or damaging surrounding tissue.
Although radiosurgery originally was limited to treatment of brain tumors inside a patient's skull after immobilizing the patient by screwing a metal frame to his or her head, CyberKnife can remove cancer throughout the body. Its technology can continuously detect and track the exact location of tumors in the brain, spine, head and neck, lung, abdomen and pelvis without the need for metal frames.
It can even treat tumors in motion, like lung cancers that move as the patient breathes, because CyberKnife uses the same computer-controlled technology that guides cruise missiles to moving targets.
The system works with extreme accuracy and effectiveness — and without needles, anesthesia or pain. "It works so well that radiologists checking post-CyberKnife procedure medical images have assumed the patient had their tumors surgically resected simply because there was no evidence of cancer left in the image," Dr. Kresl said.
Treating Liver Cancer
Retired Southwest Gas CEO Mike Maffie had a reaction similar to Hamlett's when his liver cancer was eradicated last summer by the CyberKnife VSI Robotic Radiosurgery System.
"I had none of the usual side effects usually associated with radiation," he said. "I just needed to take a nap."
Maffie has had a long relationship with Dr. Kresl. "I'm a frequent flyer in Dr. Kresl's office," he said. "It started years ago with something eventually diagnosed as a blue nevus, a growth behind my left eye.
"My eye doctor told me there was a chance it could turn into melanoma, and the only treatment at that time was to surgically remove my eye. Because he said there was only a "chance" of it turning into melanoma, that didn't seem like a good idea, but I went to meet with Dr. Kresl.
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"Dr. Kresl said I should forget about the percentages. He said this growth would absolutely turn into melanoma, if it hadn't already done so, and if I wanted to live, I needed to have the surgery. He talked me into it, and the pathology showed the tissue was melanoma. Dr. Kresl absolutely saved my life."
Follow-up PET scans at six-month intervals, prescribed by Dr. Kresl to see whether the melanoma had recurred or metastasized, discovered the early-stage liver cancer last April, Maffie said. "Dr. Kresl treated it with the CyberKnife, and my most recent PET scan showed it is completely gone. The technology is so incredible."
Another benefit from CyberKnife's precision accuracy, Dr. Kresl said, is that it can eliminate prostate tumors with fewer side effects, including much lower percentages of impotence and/or incontinence.
CyberKnife is a revolution in treating brain metastases, he added. Traditionally, radiation protocols for brain metastases involved irradiating the entire brain, which potentially could cause memory and neurocognitive problems. Because CyberKnife treats only the cancer cells and not the whole brain, and because the procedure is pain-free, requiring no anesthesia or head frame, patients literally can have brain radiosurgery in the morning and play golf the same afternoon.
A final advantage of CyberKnife's precision, Dr. Kresl said, is that it allows retreatment in the same area of the body where the patient previously had radiation therapy.
"I urge physicians who are not familiar with the capabilities and benefits of CyberKnife to contact our staff and send their patients to us at the earliest opportunity," Dr. Kresl said. "We see too many patients at a much later stage in cancer development. It may not be too late for us to help them, but the likelihood of the most optimal outcome for a cancer patient's treatment is always highest when treatment begins at the earliest stage."
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