CyberKnife System for Cancer Treatment

CyberKnife system at a glance

  • The CyberKnife® Robotic Radiosurgery System is the most advanced system for the delivery of radiosurgery, a form of therapy that precisely focuses radiation on tumors or other conditions in one to five treatments.
  • CyberKnife is an excellent alternative to cancer surgery and traditional radiation therapy.
  • Treatment with the CyberKnife system is painless and involves no scalpel, surgery or hospital stay.
  • The system can treat tumors and other problems in virtually any area of the body.
  • Unlike other forms of radiosurgery, CyberKnife allows the patient to breath and move normally during treatment.
  • CyberKnife is often the best or only option for patients with tumors that are hard to reach, inoperable, likely to have unacceptable side effect or complications when treated by other methods, or require treatment after other attempts to treat have failed.

A new paradigm in scalpel-free, pain-free radiosurgery

family holding handsThe CyberKnife® Robotic Radiosurgery System takes the treatment of cancer, certain blood vessel problems, nerve anomalies and other conditions to an unprecedented level. Despite its name, CyberKnife involves no scalpels or surgery. Instead, it is a radiosurgery treatment.

Radiosurgery, also called stereotactic radiosurgery, is a form of radiation therapy focusing radiation beams (high energy traveling through space) on an exact area of the body. Its advantage over other therapies is that it can target and treat an abnormal area of the body with minimal damage to surrounding healthy tissue, which is the primary cause of cancer treatment side effects.

CyberKnife delivers an extremely high dose of radiation to the cancer tumor mass in 1 to 5 treatments over the course of one day to a week. Each treatment takes less than an hour. Traditional radiation requires 30-40 treatments that take weeks to complete.

Often radiotherapy is the best or the only option for patients who are poor candidates for traditional surgery. For example, CyberKnife therapy is often an ideal alternative for slowing the growth of small, deep brain tumors that can be extraordinarily difficult to reach by surgery.

While doctors have used radiosurgery since the 1950s, the CyberKnife was invented in 1987 by John R. Adler, M.D., a Stanford University Medical Center professor of Neurosurgery and Stereotactic Radiosurgery.

Advantages of CyberKnife treatment

Dr. Adler’s breakthrough was developing a system that offered the following advantages:

  • The CyberKnife system uses special software to precisely guide radiation during the treatment and adjust for any patient movement, including breathing. This tracking software eliminates the rigid head frames that had to be screwed into a patient’s skull during some forms of radiosurgery.
  • Whereas some radiosurgery systems can treat only tumors in the head, the CyberKnife can treat tumors virtually anywhere in the body – the brain, breast, prostate, pancreas, liver, lung and kidneys, for example.

Essentially, the CyberKnife system attacks tumors with radiation targeting accuracy down to less than a tenth of a millimeter (about 4/1000ths of an inch).

As of December 2010 more than 100,000 patients have been treated with the CyberKnife. There are currently 150 hospitals and clinics equipped with the CyberKnife in the United States.

What to expect with the CyberKnife

CyberKnife treatment requires no hospitalization. One treatment process usually takes less than an hour and takes place in Anova’s offices.

Prior to the CyberKnife treatment, the patient is given necessary scans to help the doctor map the tumor, such as computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), and ultrasound. The information from the scans is entered into the CyberKnife System’s computer to map the tumor three dimensionally.

During CyberKnife therapy, the patient lies on a table under a robotic device that delivers radiation. A computer controls the robot, moving it around the patient and focusing precisely on the area of treatment.

The radiation dosage is calculated based on the location, size, shape and density of the tumor. The healthy parts of the body around the tumor are spared. Tiny gold markers are sometimes placed in or around the tumor that let the CyberKnife determine the real-time position of the tumor within a tenth of a millimeter in the head and within a millimeter in other areas of the body.

CyberKnife treatment is the gold standard in radiosurgery in part because of its superior targeting, guidance, and range-of-beam delivery capabilities.

  • Continual image guidance throughout treatment
    Most tumors tend to shift during various treatments due to their changes in size and shape. By using image guidance during each treatment, the CyberKnife can be automatically corrected to the new location of the tumor, without pausing the treatment or repositioning the patient.
  • Automated non-coplanar treatment delivery

Most radiotherapy systems can only move in clockwise and counter-clockwise directions. The 360-degree, non-coplanar (group of points that do not lie on the same plane) movement of the CyberKnife allows for the uninterrupted treatment of even the most complex targets. This allows the CyberKnife to deliver radiation beams at hundreds of different angles in order to target the margins of the tumor within less than a millimeter, reducing the amount of healthy tissue that is damaged during the treatment.

  • Beams move in real-time with 3D respiratory tumor motion

Tumors located in the respiratory tract often move with each breath the patient takes. Patients often have to hold their breath during traditional radiation treatments in order to prevent healthy tissue from moving into harms way. The CyberKnife system delivers radiation so precisely focused on the tumor that even movement will not disrupt the procedure and the healthy tissues will remain protected.

The treatment does not cause pain, so anesthesia or pain medication is not needed. Nurses and doctors oversee the procedure going on in the treatment room with cameras and can hear and talk with the patient through an intercom system. There is no post-surgical recovery or rehabilitation.

The patient can go home immediately after the procedure. It’s best to arrange for a ride home and to postpone regular activities for a day to make sure there are no swelling or other complications when the brain is treated. Most patients who have other sites treated are able to drive themselves home.

The results from CyberKnife treatment may take weeks or months to detect. The outcome depends on the condition being treated. Doctors usually monitor a patient’s progress through imaging tests such as MRIs and CT scans.

What are the risks from CyberKnife treatment?

Despite the precision of CyberKnife treatment, there are nonetheless some risks of tissue damage around the treatment area. However, compared to other types of radiation therapy, these risks from CyberKnife treatment are much lower.

For most patients, there are no side effects after a CyberKnife treatment. Side effects of CyberKnife treatment for some patients may include nausea and dizziness. Those symptoms should pass within a few hours of treatment. Most patients are able to return to normal activities immediately after treatment.

For people receiving treatment for brain conditions, there may be some brain swelling. Some patients may need medications to help control the swelling. In rare cases, surgery is needed to control it. However, in most cases the swelling goes away with standard treatment over time.

Benefits of CyberKnife

  • No incision
  • No pain
  • No anesthesia
  • Outpatient procedure
  • Little or no recovery time
  • Immediate return to daily activities
  • Lower chance of chronic side effects
  • Accuracy spares healthy tissue
  • No uncomfortable and painful immobilization or breath holding techniques.

Are you interested in learning more about how Anova Cancer Care can help you with the CyberKnife? Contact Us