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Saint Luke’s Radiation Oncology Network has just launched a cutting-edge new planning system to treat certain brain cancers

Saint Luke’s Radiation Oncology Network (SLRON) has just launched a cutting-edge new planning software system to treat certain brain cancers with Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS) - a type of radiation therapy. The treatment is delivered at the SLRON site on the grounds of Beaumont Hospital, which is the national referral centre for patients with malignant and benign brain tumours, who require SRS.  

David Fitzpatrick, a Consultant Radiation Oncologist at SLRON says the new Elements software system speeds up treatment, has even greater precision and offers a significant benefit for patients. 

The patient’s CT and MRI results are used with the new planning system to better target their tumours. The new software then generates a type of map pinpointing the exact location of the tumour which guides the radiation therapists as they deliver the SRS to the brain. 

Dr Fitzpatrick says, “Normally SRS is used to treat small lesions, that are less than 5 cm. These are typically secondary cancers in the brain that have originated in other parts of the body, such as the lung or breast. Patients receiving this particular treatment typically attend for just one, three or five sessions and get a high dose of radiation. The new treatment is safer with fewer side effects.”

The new planning system also allows radiation therapists to target multiple small tumours in the brain at the same time. This speeds up treatment for patients and also allows the SLRON centre in Beaumont to see more people with this type of brain cancer, currently around 250 a year. 

Dr Fitzpatrick says in four out of five cases the SRS can get rid of the brain tumour adding, “Sometimes we follow up with surgery or go back and retreat with SRS, if some of the cancer remains. The delivery of SRS combined with advances in chemotherapy means that patients with certain brain cancers are now living a lot longer and in some cases their cancer can be cured.”

One of the driving forces behind this project was Elaine Tyner, who is the Principal Physicist at SLRON. She says, “Our site on the grounds of Beaumont Hospital was the first centre in Europe to treat with the Elements brain lab cone planning module in June of 2022.  I would like to acknowledge the enormous effort undertaken by a multidisciplinary team including physicists, clinical engineering, radiation therapists, Radiation Oncologists and ICT who all worked tirelessly to provide the highest quality service to our patients. Our new planning system was seamlessly migrated with no disruption to patients.”

According to Professor Clare Faul, SLRON’s Clinical Director, “The introduction of the new Elements planning system is a key part of SLRON’s strategy to ensure we introduce the latest technologies to Ireland, so our patients receive the very best quality cancer care. I want to pay tribute to all the staff involved on this ambitious project. Its success is a testament to their hard work and dedication.”

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SRS can also be used to treat benign tumours and other non-cancer conditions like arteriovenous malformation (AVM) in the brain, which is a tangle of abnormal blood vessels that if untreated could cause brain damage or stroke. 

SLRON was also the first radiotherapy centre in Europe to use this software to give SRS to patients with trigeminal neuralgia, an extremely painful condition which causes electric shock like sensations on one side of the face. This chronic pain condition affects the trigeminal nerve in the brain.

The introduction of the Elements platform at SLRON involved building and configuring high specification virtual servers to run the treatment planning system and represented an initial investment of around 100,000 euro. 

Photo captions:  Picture 1 (Lt to Rt) - Christina and David -  Christina Zacharaton Physicist and David Fitzpatrick Consultant Radiation Oncologist 

Picture 2 (Lt to Rt) - Audience at SLRON in the VC room in Rathgar listening to a presentation at the launch of the new Elements softwear