Dr. Thomas E. Merchant, associate member and clinical director of the Department of Radiation Oncology at St. Jude, is specialising in the treatment of Ependymoma and other childhood brain tumours. Now having found promising results for infants and children treated with 3D conformal radiation therapy, Dr. Merchant stated that it used to be standard practice not to treat children under three years of age because of concerns about the effects on their development. "Currently, we are discovering that young children can be treated successfully and safely and without side effects in many instances."
Automation and precision constitute the key elements in the success for the Department of Radiation Oncology at St. Jude where they have reduced the treatment times by as much as 60 percent from beam on to beam off. The department has designed complex treatments that can be carried out easily and effectively with the use of Siemens linear accelerators which can handle complex beam arrangements. The Siemens solutions at St. Jude include the PRIMART with 3D multi leaf collimator (MLC), the SIMTEC Delivery System, PRIMEVIEW Graphical User Interface, and VIRTUAL WEDGE.
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. Record and verification is done from the monitors outside the treatment room and these systems allow more degrees of freedom due to multiple positioning, flexible table motion and gantry design.
Dr. Merchant also added that radiation treatment today is quick, efficient and results in fewer side effects. "Before conformal radiation therapy, children had side effects during and after treatment. Now, they continue to recover, even during radiation therapy. An improved targeting with smaller margins in some cases allows a higher dose to be given without damage. We do not see the side affects anymore during the radiation and our long-term follow-up of these little patients proves that many are spared from hormone deficiencies and learning impairment. It is an interesting time to be in this field."
St. Jude defines a global care standard for paediatric patients with children arriving from all over the world and is the world's premier centre for research and treatment of potentially fatal childhood diseases. Approximately twenty-four children receive radiation therapy on any given day in the Department of Radiation Oncology at St. Jude, using Siemens PRIMUS and PRIMART Linear Accelerators. The hospital's mission is to cure children of catastrophic diseases and is dedicated to providing unsurpassed patient care as well as to advance the health of children through research.
Siemens Oncology Care Systems Group manufactures and develops a wide range of radiation therapy products for the worldwide oncology market. The latest innovations in Siemens cancer-fighting equipment are demonstrated in the state-of-the-art showroom at the company's world headquarters based in Concord, California. More hospital news about cancer therapy with Siemens equipment is available in the VMW September 2000 article Atlantic Health System's new Siemens radiation equipment to combine tumour diagnosis and treatment.