Cancer patients in Qatar now have access to more advanced radiotherapy treatment with the installation of two new linear accelerators at Al Amal Hospital, the cancer care facility of the Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC).
The new machines were unveiled by Dr Hanan Al Kuwari, Managing Director of HMC, at an official ceremony yesterday.
The machines have the ability to precisely track and target tumours using real-time image guidance and a fast treatment technique called RapidArcTM.
“The installation of two new linear accelerators at Al Amal Hospital will considerably enhance radiotherapy treatment and care for our cancer patients,” said Dr Al Kuwari at the ceremony.
“This technology will help us to achieve our goal of becoming a reference centre in the region for the most advanced cancer therapeutic and diagnostic techniques,” she added.
Another key development yesterday was the start of radiosurgery at the hospital. The hospital can now perform complex radio-surgical treatment, delivering powerful, high-precision doses to brain tumours or small cancers anywhere in the body.
The radiosurgery, which is being performed in conjunction with the Neurosurgery Department at HMC, will allow radiation beams to remove diseased tissue without the need for a surgical procedure.
A cooperation contract was signed yesterday between the manufacturer, Varian Medical Systems, and Al Amal Hospital to designate the Radiotherapy Department as a reference centre in the Gulf region for RapidArc, Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT), and other technologically advanced radiotherapy techniques.
The hospital will be designated as a ‘demonstration site’ in the region where visiting delegates may see the technology being implemented clinically.
“We have always strived to ensure that the treatment offered to cancer patients in Qatar is parallel to that found in any prestigious cancer centre globally”, said Dr Noora Al Hammadi, Director of the Radiation Oncology programme at Al Amal Hospital.
At the moment there are nine patients under treatment who are benefiting from the RapidArc technique, said Al Hammadi. The cases include brain, prostate and head and neck tumours.
Evidence suggests that techniques such as IGRT and RapidArc will revolutionise the way radiotherapy is delivered and potentially improve the outcome of treatment.
Faster treatment that adapts radiation doses to the tumour is always desirable in radiotherapy, particularly for the outcome, added Al Hammadi. “We are very pleased about the potential of this technology. IGRT enables clinicians to minimise the volume of normal tissue exposed to the radiation beam, giving us the capability of using higher doses when the patient needs them,” she said.
In order to guide the radiation delivery to the tumour, radiation therapists take 2D or 3D images (Cone Beam CT) prior to each treatment session.
“Comparison of the treatment with the planned images gives us confidence in our precision before we initiate treatment”, said Rabih Hammoud, chief medical physicist at Al Amal Hospital and a leading expert in IGRT. “This is a major technical advance in our speciality and we have worked hard to ensure its implementation here”.
To facilitate the new advances, the department’s treatment planning computer systems have all been upgraded and the department now operates as a “paperless” environment for treatment delivery.
The Department of Radiation Oncology at Al Amal Hospital treats approximately 350 new cancer patients from across the Gulf region annually.
The department performs approximately 6000 treatment sessions each year and its patients represent a complex mix of all types of tumours, including pediatric cases and a large proportion of breast cancer patients.
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