Columns for The Lufkin News

New Cancer Fighting Technology in Lufkin

Posted Apr 07, 2015 by Sidney C. Roberts, MD, FACR

Last week, the Temple Cancer Center treated the first patients on our new Elekta Synergy linear accelerator, the first major investment of Memorial since the CHI acquisition. To say, "We got a new piece of equipment" understates the multi-year project of visiting other cancer centers, evaluating manufacturers, specking options, removing an older treatment machine and renovating the vault that houses the linear accelerator, and determining what other hardware and software is required to make this new piece of incredible technology work to treat cancer. No small task!

All told, this project, which also included a Toshiba large bore CT scanner, Vision RT image guided radiation alignment technology and other accessories, topped out at $4.5 million. It is a recognition of the importance of exceptional cancer treatment to our region and a signal that Memorial will remain the regional hub for cancer care in deep East Texas.

So, what does this new technology bring to our deep East Texas region? For our many patients currently being treated with IMRT - intensity modulated radiation therapy - we will be able to deliver their treatment in a fraction of the time it has taken up until now, often less than five minutes per treatment! Standard treatments can go even faster. And, these treatments are often even more precise with less dose to surrounding normal tissues, which will translate to even fewer side effects.

In addition, we will be able to implement a totally new procedure to the region called SBRT - stereotactic body radiosurgery. SBRT delivers high doses or radiation over very short courses - three to five sessions, typically - and requires much finer tuning and more rapid treatment delivery than we were previously able to do. We will start using this technology for small lung cancers first, but I anticipate over time treating cancers in other locations as well. The utility of the technology for lung cancer cannot be overstated. Lung cancer is almost always related to smoking, and heavy smokers often cannot undergo surgery, because they do not have enough normal lung function to survive removal of even a small part of a lung. However, these same patients can often be cured with SBRT. With low-dose CT lung cancer screening, we anticipate finding more early lung cancer; now we have the ability to treat them even if they cannot have surgery, with equal results and less morbidity.

Another site where we plan to implement stereotactic radiosurgery technology is in the brain, where small tumors can be ablated with radiation without having to be removed neurosurgically. Treating tumors such as these in an outpatient setting without having to resort to major chest or brain surgery is a remarkable benefit of this new technology. We will not start using this new technology immediately, however, because any new procedure requires establishment of appropriate protocols, quality assurance procedures, and training, all of which will be implemented over the coming months.

The Temple Cancer Center is also excited that our social worker, Appolonia Ellis, recently completed the Harold P. Freeman Patient Navigation Program, where she learned how to better assist our patients in accessing available services and programs so that they can successfully complete treatment. Patient navigation is fairly new to cancer programs, and we are excited to have the only navigator in the area.

At a time when other industries have announced plans to cut hundreds of jobs or move out of the area altogether, CHI's long term commitment to Lufkin and the Memorial system is reassuring. They are putting their money where there mouth is, so to speak. For that, I am grateful.

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Meet Our Team

Sidney C. Roberts, MD, FACR

Sidney C. Roberts, MD, FACR

Radiation Oncologist

Madelene Collier, RN, OCN

Madelene Collier, RN, OCN

Radiation Oncology Nurse

Jewel Randle, RT (R)(T)

Jewel Randle, RT (R)(T)

Lead Radiation Therapist

Aimee Salas, RT (T)

Aimee Salas, RT (T)

Radiation Therapist

Josh Yarbrough, RT (R)(CT)(T)

Josh Yarbrough, RT (R)(CT)(T)

Radiation Therapist

Julie McClain, RT (R)(T)

Julie McClain, RT (R)(T)

Dosimetrist

Linda Miller, MS

Linda Miller, MS

Medical Radiation Physicist

Evelyn Leach

Evelyn Leach

Receptionist