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Improving Options for Patients: Bringing the Best Radiotherapy Technology to B.C.

September 12, 2014

As I mentioned in my last post, I do less research now than earlier in my career. However when I do have time for research questions, they often relate to health operations research: how can we improve what we do to improve the patients’ experience, improve the patient outcome or to improve efficiency so that we can reduce wait times. I continue to pursue research particularly in lung cancer and prostate cancer.

A promising development in cancer treatment is the emergence of image-guidance technology and the growth of stereotactic ablative body radiosurgery (SABR). This technique has shown promise to improve outcomes for some lung cancer patients. Because lung cancers move with breathing, it is often difficult to hit the moving target. VERO™ is a modern SABR delivery tool that expands upon existing radiotherapy treatment machines currently in use in B.C., through its ability to track and follow a moving tumour target and to do this whilst delivering highly complex radiotherapy fields.

The BC Cancer Agency is currently pursuing the acquisition of a VERO™ machine. While we hope this will help us treat some lung cancers that we couldn’t effectively treat in the past, VERO™ offers expanded treatment opportunities beyond lung cancer. Many cancers spread to the liver and can sometimes be cured by the removal of lesions if there are only a few of them and no other cancer elsewhere. Like the lungs, the liver also moves with breathing. The VERO™ machine enables SABR to be used for liver lesions and brings the promise of potential cure and comfort with minimized side effects.

The addition of a VERO™ machine and a well-designed research program built around it are a formula to maximally capitalize upon this opportunity for B.C.’s cancer patients. A leading research program and VERO™ will also attract leading oncologists and researchers to B.C. The potential of a VERO™ SABR machine and B.C. research program is significant – we are uniquely positioned to validate this technology and our research may even open up this treatment approach to other cancers, such as kidney cancers, that previously only had surgery as a curative option.

I’d like to extend a special thank you to the BC Cancer Foundation staff, board members, volunteers and especially to donors who supported Wednesday’s Hope Couture event, which raised over $1.5 million to bring the VERO machine to B.C. Thanks to the generosity of these individuals, we are one step closer!