New facility promotes quality, efficiency, collaboration, and safety
UT Southwestern’s Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center is one of the nation’s top destinations for patients seeking cancer treatments. Now it has a new radiation oncology building to call home that’s as sterling as its reputation.
In early April, Simmons Cancer Center opened the doors to the new facility, which serves as an outpatient clinic of UT Southwestern’s William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital. With three floors and 63,000 square feet of space, the $66 million structure located on UT Southwestern’s East Campus is the largest individual facility for radiation oncology in North Texas and the most comprehensive.
“From the very beginning, we wanted to put together a facility that’s not only state of the art but also modern and patient-friendly in design,” says Hak Choy, M.D., Chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology. “We were determined that it be structured in such a way that it would enhance the delivery of quality care, create efficient patient management, promote collaboration among caregivers, and ensure high levels of safety.”
Filled with the latest technology
Inside the building’s walls is some of the field’s most technologically advanced equipment for treating cancer. That includes the next-generation CyberKnife robotic radiosurgery system. UT Southwestern has more experience with CyberKnife than any other center in Texas, and the new model – the M6 – has the ability to check its accuracy while it’s treating patients.
Later this year, UT Southwestern will become just the second center in the U.S. to offer the GammaPod, an advanced form of technology that’s designed specifically to treat early-stage breast cancer.
The GammaPod could eventually help to eliminate invasive surgery for some patients and dramatically reduce treatment time. With the GammaPod, patients receive hundreds of converging beams of highly focused radiation while lying on a treatment couch. The technology’s high degree of accuracy minimizes damage to surrounding healthy tissue, as well as to the heart, lungs, and skin. And rather than weeks of treatment, patients undergo just a handful of treatment sessions.
Six state-of-the-art linacs
The new building houses six of the most advanced linear accelerators (linacs), which produce patient-specific therapeutic beams. The machines’ unique capabilities deliver these beams with precision, efficiency, and speed – six times faster, in fact, than conventional machines, leading to a substantial decrease of irradiation time for selected tumors.
The linacs’ treatment couches allow doctors to match a tumor’s position to the therapy beam in six different directions. In addition, each machine is equipped with the most advanced imaging capabilities, enabling CT scans in the treatment room while a patient is in treatment position. Laser surfacing imaging, which interrupts a radiation beam if the patient moves out of position, is another valuable feature. Each machine also is capable of delivering radiation as it rotates around the patient, which offers significant organ-sparing features.
New technology at Zale Lipshy, too
In addition to advanced equipment contained in the new building, the Department of Radiation Oncology has also invested in leading-edge technology housed at Zale Lipshy University Hospital. That includes the first Gamma Knife Icon in Texas.
For decades, Gamma Knife radiosurgery has been the gold standard for cancer patients with inoperable brain tumors or brain metastases. Until now, Gamma Knife treatment has been a single-day procedure that required the attachment of a head frame to the patient’s skull to prevent movement during treatment.
But now, the Gamma Knife Icon’s new frameless system frees patients from the head constraint and allows multiple treatments over several days. In addition, the Gamma Knife Icon offers an expanded treatment area that includes the face and upper neck along with the brain.
Advanced treatment planning system
An enhanced treatment planning system offers significant benefits to patients being treated in the new Radiation Oncology Building, including improved efficiency, quality, and safety.
The new system features the most accurate dosage calculation capabilities available, which can correctly model beforehand all uncertainties that can occur during treatment and then offer the best treatment corrections if an issue arises.
The new system also utilizes knowledge-based software, meaning it can “learn” from a database of past cases and then offer guidance to physicians when they are planning upcoming treatments. That, in turn, ensures that quality can be controlled among care team members, who can reproduce the best treatment for patients.
Adaptive therapy is another benefit of the new system. If a patient experiences body changes during treatment – weight loss, for example – it can affect the high degree of precision needed for radiation treatment. The new treatment planning system can quickly replan treatments and tailor them to the patient. In the past, this process would take several days; with the new system, it can be done the following day, ensuring patients get the treatment they need in a timely fashion.
The new Radiation Oncology Building and the equipment it houses enhance disease-site specialization in the treatment of cancer patients. Each major disease site, such as brain, breast, or gastrointestinal cancer, has its own dedicated area for teams of doctors, mid-level providers, nurses, clinic researchers, and physicists.
“That framework is consistent with how the Radiation Oncology Department treats cancer,” Dr. Choy says. “Each physician specializes in the treatment of a particular cancer type, enabling individual specialists to bring familiarity and expertise to each patient encounter. Each specialist also participates in larger disease-oriented teams within Simmons Cancer Center.”
William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital
Radiation Oncology Building
2280 Inwood Road
Dallas, Texas 75390-9125
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