Pinpointing the smallest cancers

Advanced cancer care technology convenient at Memorial Hospital
Jan. 4, 2017
UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central has new technology in the Truebeam Linear Accelerator.
UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central has new technology in the Truebeam Linear Accelerator.

Memorial Hospital has new, advanced technology that allows doctors to more accurately target small lesions in cancer patients, enabling UCHealth patients to stay in Colorado Springs for treatment instead of having to travel to Denver.

The new Varian Truebeam with HD MLCs and OSMS technology is the latest investment by UCHealth in providing advanced cancer care in southern Colorado. The new technology allows physicians to pinpoint radiation treatment – while minimizing the dose to normal tissue – significantly expanding Memorial’s stereotactic radiation capabilities.

“We’re the first to bring this streamlined all–Varian experience to Southern Colorado,” said Darryl Yancy, radiation oncology manager at Memorial Hospital. “This cohesive package and our affiliation with the University of Colorado is all part of our effort to continually bring highly specialized care here. The result is better access to include faster and more patient-focused care.”

The new Truebeam Linear Accelerator, in addition to its ability to treat small lesions, is equipped with a camera (OSMS) that is used to monitor patient position and movement. This allows clinicians to ensure the patient is in the correct position throughout treatment and that the patient has not moved while being treated.

The new technology at the downtown campus comes only months after a new $10.4 million radiation oncology clinic opened at Memorial Hospital North. Cancer patients who live on the north side of Colorado Springs now have access to comprehensive cancer care on the city’s north side.

The 9,600-square-foot building, designed like a spa with contemporary finishes and modern art, houses a Varian Truebeam linear accelerator, very similar to the Truebeam at MHC, but suitable for a wider range of general radiation oncology treatments. Both sites allow Memorial to offer the latest and best radiation treatments to our patients.

As part of UCHealth, Memorial Hospital is the only hospital in southern Colorado affiliated with a National Cancer Institute-designated program such as the one at University of Colorado Cancer Center. The affiliation grants patients access to the latest clinical trials, which provide access to new new treatment options that one day may become the standard of care.

In recent months, UCHealth has begun enrolling patients in a clinical trial to determine whether a much shorter course of radiation therapy is effective for node-positive breast cancer patients – research that could lead to a nationwide change in standard practice, potentially benefiting generations of patients to come.

The typical course of radiation therapy for node-positive breast cancer patients is 25-33 daily treatments, lasting a few minutes each weekday over a period of five or six weeks. While patients can generally drive themselves to and from treatment and continue working full time, this schedule can be time-consuming and inconvenient.

According to Dr. Jane Witter Ridings, a radiation oncologist with UCHealth Memorial Hospital and a co-investigator on the trial, eligible node-positive clinical trial participants will receive just 15-19 treatments over three to four weeks.

Ridings said the goal is to enroll 112 patients in the trial over the next three years, but added: “We think this trial will be very popular with patients and accrual goals could be met more quickly.”

Participants in the trial also are enrolling at two other UCHealth hospitals: Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins and University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora. This is the first investigator-initiated clinical trial, funded by University of Colorado Cancer Center, to be made available to patients across the UCHealth system. CU Cancer Center is the only comprehensive cancer center in the state as designated by the National Cancer Institute.

About the author

Erin Emery is editor of UCHealth Today, a hub for medical news, inspiring patient stories and tips for healthy living. Erin spent years as a reporter for The Denver Post, Colorado Springs Gazette and Colorado Springs Sun. She was part of a team of Denver Post reporters who won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting.

Erin joined UCHealth in 2008, and she is awed by the strength of patients and their stories.