Radiation oncologists at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center (UMGCCC) are now treating patients with the GammaPod™, a new FDA-cleared radiation therapy for early-stage breast cancer.
The UMGCCC is the first place to treat patients with this first-of-their-kind system, which was invented by the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) scientists and physicians. This is the only external-beam radiation delivery system specifically designed to treat breast cancer.
Radiation treatment for early breast cancer
"With this new technology, we can significantly shorten the length of the radiation treatment for early breast cancer from up to six weeks to only a matter of days," says Elizabeth M. Nichols, MD, an assistant professor of radiation oncology and clinical director the Department of Radiation Oncology at UMSOM.
"Not only is this approach more convenient for patients, but it can potentially reduce side effects, such as skin reactions, which can result from traditional radiation therapy," says Dr. Nichols, who treats patients at UMGCCC. "We expect that GammaPod's highly focused radiation will also help to improve cosmetic outcomes for our patients."
Granted 510 (k) clearance by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in December 2017, the GammaPod stereotactic radiation therapy system delivers a high dose of radiation to a specific area in the breast, sparing nearby healthy tissue and vital organs: such as the heart and lungs.
Typically, patients with early-stage breast cancer have surgery to remove the tumor, followed by three to six weeks of standard radiation therapy to the whole breast to help kill residual cancer cells and prevent recurrence.
Stereotactic radiation therapy is most commonly used to treat brain cancer and cancers in other parts of the body; the GammaPod enables this high-precision technology to be used for breast cancer, to target part of the breast.
"GammaPod allows us to optimize the use of stereotactic radiosurgery to treat breast cancer," says co-inventor William F. Regine, MD, FACR, FACRO, the Isadore & Fannie Schneider Foxman Endowed Chair and professor of radiation oncology at UMSOM and chief of radiation oncology at UMGCCC.
Patients with early-stage cancer who are eligible to receive "partial breast irradiation" with the GammaPod will receive five days of treatment to the tumor site after surgery in a noninvasive fashion. These are primarily women with small tumors whose cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes.
The GammaPod can also be used to provide a single "boost" treatment to women with breast cancer of any stage, including more advanced tumors, instead of four to five treatments, thus shortening the overall duration of radiation therapy. This treatment would be in addition to standard radiation therapy to the whole breast.