New High Precision Weapon against Cancer

20. February 2008

It for sure was a little sensation and perhaps the first step on the road to new methods in oncology: Last Wednesday physicians at the University Hospital in Magdeburg/Germany officially applied an open Upright MRI in their fight against cancer.

Actually the idea to apply more and more microtherapeutic methods in addition to classical procedures such as chemotherapy or surgery seems to be quite promising. The show-stopper: The physician uses imaging techniques to bring finest tools into the body of the patient and place them directly in the tumor. There the tools develop their effects – for example direct radiotherapy or atrophy by heat. Due to the pinpoint accuracy of microtherapeutic operations, the surrounding tissue is mainly spared from damage. Not really new – but tested.

Highly precise cancer surgery

The other day in Magdeburg it was about a whole lot more. Because the completely new type of MRI-device provides the necessary free access to the patient during operation – and thus paves the way for synergistic working. "Due to its open construction it gives us physicians free access to the patient we need for a successful surgery", as Jens Ricke, Director at the Klinik für Radiologie und Nuklearmedizin at the University Hospital Magdeburg explains the principle.
What exactly the surgeon will expect in the future was shown live. Using the example of the image-controlled, formerly CT-controlled brachytherapy, the docs demonstrated the true power for this super machine. With remarkable results: The method is capable of destroying tumors and metastases on the spot.
The so-called interstitial brachytherapy is used in Magdeburg as radiotherapy by a radio source the size of a capsule and entered percutaneously. Mainly for atrophy of metastases in liver, lung or lymphatic glands, physicians of the Clinic for Radiology and the Clinic for Radiotherapy join to apply the method. "More studies show promising results for application on primary liver cell-, bile duct- and kidney cell tumors as well", as we heard from Magdeburg the other day and: Instead of the common CT, the MRI might be the future eye of the surgeon.

We are talking precision finishing here

To begin with, the radiologist places catheters at defined positions in the tumor aided by local anesthesia and image control. After thorough dosimetric planning by the radiotherapist, capsules loaded with radioactive Iridium 192 are entered into the body via those catheters. After the exact placing and planning, the Iridium 192 will deliver an exactly defined, highly dosed irradition in the tumor for a few minutes. And – this is the novelty – all this due to the exact view into the body: The high precision of the irradiation spares most of the surrounding tissue from damage. The method would be similarly applicable without MRI – but by far not as precisely and under additional radiation exposure for the patient.

Only as of recently and worldwide for the very first time at the University Hospital of Magdeburg, this type of operation is controlled by the aid of the now officially presented open Upright Magnetic Resonance Imaging Device (MRI). It just seems a question of time to the people in Magdeburg, when new fields of operations will be pushed in addition to the use of the established microtherapeutic methods of today as becoming obvious during the development project co-operation between the Clinic for Radiology and Nuclear Medicine and Philips, the manufacturer of the MR-scanner.

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