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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
Boston Globe Health and Science staff:
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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Brockton Hospital to get cutting-edge radiation machine

By Scott Allen, Globe Staff

In a region where most of the medical firsts happen in Boston, here's one for Brockton: sometime this month, a cancer patient at Brockton Hospital will become the first in New England to undergo a new kind of radiation therapy that allows doctors to boost the amount of radiation aimed at the tumor while doing less harm to the surrounding tissue.

The TomoTherapy machine, part of a $3.8 million upgrade to Brockton Hospital's cancer center, is expected to more effectively kill the cancer with fewer side effects for the patient.

"We'll be able to increase our dosage by about 10 to 15 percent while minimizing the dose to other tissues," said Dr. Mark Vasa, the hospital's acting chief of radiation oncology. "We're all very excited."

TomoTherapy combines a CT scan that allows radiologists to see any changes in the tumor's size and shape with a rotating radiation beam that can be aimed in any direction. As a result, radiologists can focus the beam more precisely on the tumor. The technology, developed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and commercially available since 2002, is available at more than 25 cancer treatment centers nationwide, but none north of New York City. (The University of Connect Health System plans to offer TomoTherapy soon, too.)

TomoTherapy machine

Vasa doesn't know whether New England medicine's conservative streak explains why TomoTherapy hasn't caught on yet here -- Boston doctors, in particular, have a reputation for being skeptical of breakthroughs that happen somewhere else. Whatever the reason, Vasa said the arrival of TomoTherapy is a boon for Brockton patients who will undergo an estimated 15,000 radiation treatments this year.

Posted by Karen Weintraub at 01:07 PM
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