April 13, 2012 — Leading experts in radiosurgery of the spine will present information about how to treat spinal tumors effectively using stereotactic radiosurgery rather than invasive surgical procedures during the annual meeting of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) later this week in Miami. New techniques in image-guided radiosurgical treatment of benign and malignant spinal lesions will be the focus of a special workshop for neurosurgeons.
"The ability to treat a vertebral body tumor using stereotactic radiosurgery has drastically changed the field of spinal oncology," said Jason Andrew Weaver, M.D., neurosurgeon with the Semmes Murphey Neurologic and Spine Institute in Memphis, Tenn., who will be demonstrating the use of Eclipse treatment planning software from Varian Medical Systems during the workshop.
"We can use stereotactic radiosurgery to treat many spinal tumors that would otherwise have required an invasive operation. Studies have now shown that these patients may be able to expect good long-term disease control as well as excellent levels of neurological functioning after treatment," Weaver said, referencing papers by Mark H. Bilsky, M.D., and Peter C. Gerszten, M.D., who are co-directing the AANS workshop on spinal radiosurgery.
Although they have worked with cobalt-based and robotic systems for stereotactic radiosurgery in the past, Weaver and his colleagues are now performing most of their radiosurgery procedures using Varian technology. "Varian's Trilogy machine, plus Eclipse for treatment planning, have been become our mainstays for treating both brain and spine tumors with stereotactic radiosurgery," he said.
Stereotactic radiosurgery involves delivering very high doses of radiation quickly, using carefully shaped beams that focus on the tumor and minimize exposure of surrounding tissues and organs. This contrasts with conventional radiotherapy, which involves delivering just a little dose each day over a period of many weeks. According to Weaver, tumors of all types, including renal cell carcinoma and others that can be resistant to conventional radiotherapy, have been shown to respond very well to radiosurgical procedures that deliver a very high dose quickly.
"Radiosurgery for the ablation of spinal tumors is becoming a more and more common approach," said Calvin Huntzinger, M.S., senior director of surgical sciences at Varian. "We're gratified to see the increasing level of attention being paid to radiosurgery as a viable option for treating certain types of tumors at neurosurgery programs like the annual AANS meeting."
Varian's Trilogy medical linear accelerator is intended to provide stereotactic radiosurgery and precision radiotherapy for lesions, tumors and conditions anywhere in the body where radiation treatment is indicated. It is not indicated for all types of cancer. Stereotactic radiosurgery to the spine has been shown, in numerous clinical studies, to have minimal side effects. The most common ones are fatigue and temporary skin irritation, such as redness, dryness, scaliness and itching in the vicinity of the treated area.
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