In October 2019 the first patient in Canada received radiation therapy using ‘Dynamic Wave Arc’ technology at BC Cancer - Vancouver. This was an important milestone not just for BC Cancer, but for the Canadian radiotherapy community and most importantly for patients whose curative treatment options would have otherwise been limited because of how close their cancer tumour was to nearby healthy tissue. This technology involves the simultaneous rotation of a radiation therapy beam around the patient on two axes.
“In essence, the radiation beam moves around the patient. It smoothly flows up and down like a wave, treating the cancer from many different angles by following a complex path,” says Dr. Alanah Bergman, senior medical physicist at BC Cancer. “Ultimately this allows us to target more of the tumour with radiation and less of the surrounding healthy tissues than ever before.”
The trajectory of the ‘wave’ can be chosen such that the radiation beam can avoid organs that are unfortunately located between the cancer and the x-ray source.
“When planning radiotherapy for prostate patients, for example, we often have to be careful about how much radiation dose is being delivered to the hip joints,” says Dr. Bergman. “Traditional radiotherapy beams have to treat through the hips to reach the prostate in the middle. The Dynamic Wave Arc can scoop the radiation beam up and around the hip joint, avoiding extra dose to that area.”
The technology is used on a machine called the Vero4DRT, which operates like a CT scanner, but can move path-based radiotherapy beams around the patient in two directions. The standard wave arc trajectories that come with the Vero4DRT are specific to a treatment site, but are not patient-specific. Tumour locations are different for each person. Researchers at BC Cancer - Vancouver have created tools that create Dynamic Wave Arc trajectories that are individualized for each patient and are unique to them and their tumour.
Dr. Alanah Bergman, senior medical physicist, BC Cancer
“As we explore different cancer types, we will determine which patients will receive the most benefit from this technology. This benefit may come in the form of an improved radiotherapy plan, or it may take the form of increased efficiency in the treatment delivery, minimizing the amount of time that a patient must hold still in the treatment position,” says Dr. Bergman.
To learn more about Dr. Bergman’s work and more BC Cancer research highlights from last year, read through the BC Cancer 2019 Research Report