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Promise and Progress - Radiation Oncology in the News: Gamma Knife Center Opens

A Cancer Revolution

Radiation Oncology in the News: Gamma Knife Center Opens

Date: December 1, 2004

The Stereotactic Radiosurgery/Gamma Knife Team from left to right: Tammy Cuda, Dr. Abdul Rashid, Dr. Shidong Li, Dr. Richard North, Dr. Judy Huang, Dr. Alessandro Olivi, Dr. Rafael Tamargo, Dr. Moody Wharam, Dr. Lawrence Kleinberg, Dr. Frederick Lenz, and Dr. Daniele Rigamonti.

The Kimmel Cancer Center celebrated the opening of its $4.5 million Gamma Knife Center in 2003. The Gamma Knife, which is really not a knife at all, uses 201 beams of highly focused cobalt gamma radiation rather than a scalpel to painlessly “cut” through and destroy benign and malignant brain tumors, vascular abnormalities, and diseased areas of the brain without harming normal, healthy tissue.

Gene Silencer Could Improve Chemo and Radiation

Like bacteria that resist common antibiotics, some cancer cells survive radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Investigators have found a gene “silencer” that may block the cancer cell’s ability to repair itself after being hit with anti-cancer drugs or radiation. When silencing the repair gene, the researchers saw a 90 percent decrease in repair proteins and were able to reduce the amount of radiation needed to damage cancer cells.

Fighting Radiation Side Effects

Facing a diagnosis of brain cancer is difficult enough. But patients undergoing radiation therapy for their tumors face an added risk in life-threatening infections, such as pneumonia, caused by immune cell suppression from corticosteroids given to ward off brain swelling and treatment-related headaches. Our radiation oncologists have begun monitoring patients’ immune cell counts. If patients’ immune cells fall too low, they are given antibiotics to help stave off these potentially fatal side effects. In a study of 82 patients, none developed pneumonia or other serious infections or suffered side effects from the antibiotics.