MEMPHIS, TennesseeAt St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital, children as young as 12 months are being treated for brain tumors with 3D conformal radiation therapy, said Thomas E. Merchant, MD, clinical director of the Department of Radiation Oncology.
It used to be standard practice not to treat children under 3 years of age because of concerns about the effects on their development. We are finding that young children can be treated successfully and safely and without side effects in many instances, Dr. Merchant said.
Treatment Times Reduced
The department has designed complex treatment plans that can be carried out quickly with the use of automated equipment from Siemens Oncology Care Systems Group that can handle complex beam arrangements. Treatment times have been reduced by as much as 60% from beam on to beam off, he said.
With automated delivery, therapists no longer have to go in and out of the treatment room to change heavy blocks between fields or to place wedges and compensators, Dr. Merchant said in a news release. Record and verification is done from the monitors outside the treatment room, and these systems allow more degrees of freedom due to multiple positioning and flexible table motion and gantry design.
Improved targeting with small margins in some cases allows a higher radiation dose to be given without damage to the patient. We do not see side effects anymore during radiation, and our long-term follow-up of these patients shows that many are spared from hormone deficiencies and learning impairment, Dr. Merchant said.