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Physicians Update


Physicians Update

Fall 2011

HDR Brachytherapy Delivers Focused Dose to Prostate Tumor


Brachytherapy — the insertion of radioactive sources known as seeds directly into the target tumor — has become increasingly used as a treatment for low- and early intermediate-risk prostate cancer, or in combination with external-beam radiation therapy for patients with higher-risk disease. In its most common form, brachytherapy consists of implantation of numerous permanent seeds, but a newer advanced technique pioneered by a UCLA radiation oncologist takes a different approach.

High-dose-rate (HDR) brachytherapy uses computerized robotics to temporarily insert and then remove a single tiny but powerful radioactive source located on the end of fine cable. It enables the rapid and controlled delivery of a high-radiation dose — while limiting radiation exposure to the surrounding healthy tissues.

D. Jeffrey Demanes, M.D., and his brachytherapy-specialty team use precision HDR technology to move and control the time and position of the radiation source throughout the target. The HDR brachytherapy procedure itself starts with the insertion of small straw-like applicators about the size of intravenous lines. The applicators can be placed in virtually any part of the body which makes prostate cancer just one of the many indications for HDR brachytherapy. Working with a 3D-imaging device and powerful treatment-planning computer program, the team obtains a 3D image of the implant and surrounding anatomy and then customizes the dose distribution with virtual-image technology. After the optimal treatment-delivery plan has been achieved, electronic instructions for positioning the radioactive source are sent to a robotic “afterloader” to deliver the radiation. HDR can often be done on an outpatient basis, with the entire treatment process typically taking only one-to-two weeks.

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