Integrating magnetic resonance imaging with radiation therapy is gaining attention as a therapy for treating cancer. Experts believe the treatment approach has the approach to extend life expectancy and reduce common side effects that afflict cancer patients.

At a recent meeting hosted by the Miami Cancer Institute and Viewray, panel participants discussed the potential for the therapy to improve treatment by using MRI imaging to target radiation.

“For the first time, we are able to see high-contrast soft tissue images that delineate tumors from the surrounding healthy organs,” says Minesh Mehta, MD, chief of radiation oncology at Miami Cancer Institute.

The combined technology “allows us to deliver radiation more precisely and, in some cases, may even allow us to increase the radiation dose to fight cancer more aggressively,” Mehta added.

MRI-aided radiation therapy

Radiation therapy has long been used in cancer therapy but precisely aiming the beam has been problematic for clinicians. Inaccurately aimed beams can damage tissue surrounding the tumor, and that also can lessen the effectiveness of the therapy.

ViewRay makes MRIdian, the only MRI-guided radiation therapy system approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The combined technology takes “much of the guesswork out of radiation therapy,” says Michael Chuong, MD, director of radiation oncology clinical research and education at Miami Cancer Institute.

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Using MRI imaging to guide radiation “are of benefit in treating many types of cancer, but are especially vital when treating tumors that move significantly during the treatment, such as tumors in the lung or liver” he adds.

“We can now watch the changes within the body in real time and respond accordingly. This leads to more accurate treatment of the tumor and minimizes irradiation of nearby normal tissue, potentially reducing the side effects,” he said.

"MRI-guided radiation therapy enables us to deliver more accurate and effective radiation doses, in fewer sessions, while sparing healthy tissue,” confirms Raymond Wynn, MD, professor and vice chair of network operations in the department of radiation oncology at Loyola University Medical Center, Chicago.

ViewRay has announced the launch of a multi-center prospective clinical trial in pancreatic cancer to investigate the robustness of encouraging early data in patients treated with MRI-guided radiation therapy. The study aims to track patient survival and quality of life over a 5-year period. The trial is expected to open enrollment in the coming weeks.