Understanding Magnetic Resonance Radiation Therapy

MR/RT is a new radiotherapy technique that uses MR imaging with radiation treatment, reducing the dose to healthy surrounding tissues—Elekta explain the facts.

What is MR Imaging and how is it used in cancer therapy?

MR imaging uses strong magnetic fields to create high quality images of the inside of patients. These can be used to identify where cancer is and how it is positioned relative to the normal tissues that surround it. This information can then be used to design a patient’s radiation therapy treatment to maximise the dose to the tumour and minimise the dose to the healthy tissue.

What is Magnetic Resonance Radiation Therapy?

Magnetic Resonance Radiation Therapy (MR/RT) is a new radiotherapy technique that uses an integrated system of MR imaging simultaneously with the radiation treatment to ensure that the dose is delivered exactly where the clinician wants it to go.

How does MR/RT work?

The high-quality MR imaging can be used to adapt a treatment design that was created before the treatment to the exact shape and position of the tumour and healthy tissue, while the patient is being treated.

Who is MR/RT suitable for?

MR/RT will be of most benefit to cancer patients whose tumours are in difficult to visualise areas, or are adjacent to sensitive, healthy tissues. Current research has indicated that some examples could include pancreas, oesophagus and rectum. These are all difficult to treat well with the conventional technologies and MR/RT has the potential to improve the outcome for these patients.

What are the benefits of MR/RT?

MR/RT is expected to reduce the dose to the healthy tissues that are adjacent to the tumour. This can have a number of benefits and the dominant benefit depends on the tumour type and location. Reduced dose to the healthy tissue can:

  • Reduce unwanted side effects from the radiation
  • Enable increased dose to the tumour and improved control of the cancer
  • Reduce the number of visits that the patient needs to make for treatment

What could a patient receiving MR/RT expect to experience?

The experience of being treated on an MR Linac is just the same as being imaged on an MRI scanner. The patient cannot see or feel the treatment.

How long does a course of radiotherapy usually last?

A course of radiotherapy can be as short as a few days or as long as six weeks depending on the cancer type. This does not indicate that the cancer is any better or worse.

What are the side effects of receiving radiotherapy?

Radiotherapy can have a few different side effects depending on the cancer type and area of the body being treated. Your oncology doctor will explain the potential side effects to you. It is advisable to take professional medical advice if you are affected.

Is MR Linac technology available in the U.K?

Yes, the Elekta Unity system in the Royal Marsden Hospital, Sutton has just started treating patients and The Christie, Manchester is expecting to start early in 2019. There are a number of further Elekta systems that have been acquired by Proton Partners International and they will be installed in the U.K. over the coming months and years.

How can this treatment change the future of cancer therapy?

Radiation therapy already plays a significant role for many cancer patients. For some it provides a complete cure, for others an extension of life and others it offers improved quality of life in their last months. We believe that MR/RT will be of significant benefit in improving the treatment for many of these patients.

Elekta is the leading innovator of equipment and software used to improve, prolong and save the lives of people with cancer and brain disorders. Our treatment solutions and oncology informatics portfolios are designed to enhance the delivery of radiation therapy, radiosurgery and brachytherapy, and to drive cost efficiency in clinical workflows. To learn more about how Elekta is using precision radiation medicine to work towards a future where everyone can benefit from precise and individually tailored radiotherapy treatments, visit www.elekta.com.

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