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GammaPod stereotactic radiotherapy treatments underway in Maryland

by John W. Mitchell , Senior Correspondent
GammaPod— a first-of-its kind stereotactic radiotherapy system to treat early stage breast cancer— is now treating patients at the University of Maryland.

Scientists and physicians at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center (UMGCCC) developed the treatment to deliver high-dose radiation to a tumor while minimizing damage to breast tissue and organs.

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“In the U.S., roughly 60 percent of breast cancers are detected at an early stage due to the advent of mammographic screening,” Dr. Elizabeth Nichols, assistant professor & clinical director, Department of Radiation Oncology at UMGCCC told HCB News. “We essentially treat a woman with a 3 cm tumor the same as a 0.5 cm tumor. The GammaPod allows us to treat a part of the breast with partial breast radiation using a very focused treatment delivery that results in decreased dose to the normal tissue, like the heart and lung.”

The GammaPod therapy also reduces the number of treatments, according to Nichols, from 16 treatments to one to five treatments. Because radiation therapy is generally paid for per treatment, the reduced number of treatments is expected to lower healthcare costs for eligible breast cancer patients. Fewer treatments also mean less patient exposure to radiation, as well as side effects, such as skin rash, and possibly improved cosmetic effect.

“One of the clinical trials we will plan to perform in the future will also be to deliver radiation therapy prior to surgery to hopefully induce a pathologic response,” said Nichols. “We hope to find a group of women where the radiation alone can eradicate the tumor, similar to successes in early-stage lung cancer and some brain tumors. If this is able to be achieved, this would reduce health care costs too.”

To date, 20 women have been treated with GammaPod; 15 leading up to FDA-clearance and five post-FDA-clearance. Currently, UMGCC is the only active clinical site deploying GammaPod.

“We are incredibly proud that after more than a decade of research and development, this novel radiation therapy system invented by two of our faculty members will now help shorten treatment times for women with early-stage breast cancer,” says Dr. Dean E. Albert Reece, university executive vice president for Medical Affairs at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM). “I congratulate (inventors) Dr. William Regine and Dr. Cedric Yu, on this tremendous achievement.”

Regine is chair and professor of radiation oncology at UMSOM and chief of radiation oncology at UMGCCC. Yu is a professor in radiation oncology at UMSOM and the founder and chief executive officer of Xcision Medical Systems. GammaPod was developed with the help of $3.5 million in Small Business Innovation Research grants from the National Institutes of Health.

EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the FDA clearance was new when in fact FDA clearance took place almost one year ago.

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