Berks County Medical Society Medical Record Fall 2019 - 20

m E d i C a l r E C o r d F E at u r E

First of its Kind
Cancer Fighting
Technology Coming
to Berks County:

The MR-Linac

by Adam Smith, MD, PhD
Radiation Oncology, McGlinn Cancer Institute

R

adiation therapy is one of the three pillars of cancer
treatment, along with chemotherapy and surgery. News
of tantalizingly promising chemotherapy drugs appears
regularly in the press and in popular advertising but advancements
in radiation therapy have typically been more incremental and
less heralded. This may be changing, however, with a new kind of
radiation treatment machine that combines two technologies: a
linear accelerator (linac), which delivers the radiation therapy itself,
and the imaging capabilities of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).
This machine is called an MR-Linac. McGlinn Cancer Institute
at Reading Hospital is currently installing the very first of these
machines in the state of Pennsylvania, a MRIdian MR-Linac
(Figure 1 shown above).

20

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www.berkscms.org

A major part of the game-changing promise of the MR-Linac is
its ability to provide continuous imaging from the MRI component
of the machine during the actual treatment in real time. Other
radiation machines use less clear imaging prior to the treatment with
minimal to no imaging during the treatment. The MRI technology
allows the treating physicians to see the tumor that is their target
and account for any motion that the tumor undergoes during the
course of treatment. This motion is related to normal processes of
the human body such as breathing and digestion which can push a
tumor in any direction by as little as a quarter of an inch up to an
inch and a half. The MRI detects motion during the treatment and,
critically, signals the linac component of the machine to temporarily
stop the treatment if the tumor moves outside of the designated


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Berks County Medical Society Medical Record Fall 2019

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