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Radiation Oncology

Radiation oncology applies advanced radiation technologies in the treatment of cancer by shrinking tumors and killing cancer cells. Using a highly comprehensive multidisciplinary approach, the innovative Radiation Oncology and Stereotactic Radiosurgery Program at Mischer Neuroscience Institute uses radiation therapy as a primary treatment method for both benign and malignant brain tumors, and in conjunction with chemotherapy and surgical treatments of cancer.

The radiation oncologists affiliated with Mischer Neuroscience Institute, Director of Radiation Oncology and Stereotactic Radiosurgery Angel I. Blanco, M.D., and Shariq Khwaja, M.D., Ph.D., specialize in the skilled treatment of cancers using radiation.

Thorough Consultation

Patients referred to Mischer Neuroscience Institute’s Radiation Oncology Program will meet with a radiation oncologist for a thorough consultation to determine if radiation therapy is the appropriate course of treatment and to discuss all aspects of possible treatments. The consultation includes a review of medical history, a physical examination, and a review of advanced imaging results.

The affiliated medical team at the Mischer Neuroscience Institute is skilled in the treatment of a wide range of primary and metastatic tumors, including:

Advanced Simulation

Simulation is a crucial component of any radiation therapy treatment, and helps ensure precise and safe treatment of brain tumors.

This process begins with the attachment of a stereotactic head frame to accurately pinpoint the target to be treated in the brain. The lightweight frame is attached to the patient’s head with four pins and ensures that the radiation beams can be directed with precision to the target. The frame also prevents the head from moving during imaging and treatment.

Sedation and analgesics are administered before the head frame is attached to reduce anxiety and discomfort. Each patient is monitored throughout the entire procedure and recovery by a nurse dedicated to his or her care.

Once the head frame is attached, imaging such as MRI, CT or angiography is performed to determine the exact size, shape and position of the target in the brain. This advanced imaging allows for precise treatment planning by demonstrating the relationship between the target tumor and healthy tissues while the patient is in treatment position.

During imaging, a coordinate box is placed on the head frame to provide reference points on the images for the treatment plan.  After imaging, the coordinate box is removed.

Comprehensive Treatment Planning

Drs. Blanco and Khwaja consult and work closely with referring physicians and Mischer Neuroscience Institute’s team of affiliated world-class specialists to develop individualized treatment plans for each patient. This affiliated multidisciplinary team includes neuro-oncologists, neuroradiologists, neuropathologists, oncologists, neurologists and interventional pain management physicians who meet weekly to discuss each patient’s plan of care and progress.

All aspects of a patient’s diagnosis, treatment and prospective path to recovery are continuously monitored and addressed, including radiation therapy technique; dosage; tumor size, location and type; other ongoing medical treatments, if applicable; and overall health status.

Safe, Effective Radiation Treatment

Mischer Neuroscience Institute has been a pioneering program in treating brain tumors with radiation therapy in the southwestern United States since acquiring the region’s first Gamma Knife in 1993. Most radiation therapies are administered as outpatient procedures.

  • Leksell Gamma Knife® Perfexion™ radiosurgery – A painless, simple, safe and effective treatment procedure that is completely noninvasive. Nearly 200 precisely targeted radiation beams converge on a single focal point, avoiding healthy tissue.
  • Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT)—This specialized therapy uses linear accelerators to offer pinpoint accuracy in the area to be irradiated while increasing the likelihood of completely eradicating a tumor with targeted dose escalation. This therapy is administered over the course of several outpatient sessions.
  • Image-Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT)— All patients undergo a CT scan as part of the planning process. The information from the CT scan is then transmitted to a computer in the treatment room, and the radiation oncologist is able to compare the earlier image with images taken just before treatment to determine if the treatment needs to be adjusted.

Follow-Up After Radiation Treatment

Radiation treatments are designed to work over time. This means that the effect of the treatment will be seen over a period of weeks or months.  The physicians stay in contact with patients over time to assess progress, which typically includes follow-up MRI, CT or angiography images.