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Doctors in the US and Netherlands Using Fast RapidArc Radiotherapy Technology to Help Fight Cancer are Now Treating Tumors of the Head and Neck

Technology Targets Tumors with Precise Image-Guided IMRT to Spare Healthy

Surrounding Tissue

PALO ALTO, Calif., Sept. 16 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Doctors at cancer treatment centers in the United States and the Netherlands are now treating head and neck cancer using RapidArc(TM) radiotherapy technology from Varian Medical Systems (NYSE: VAR). RapidArc was used to deliver ultra-precise image-guided intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) significantly faster than was previously possible with conventional IMRT. The RapidArc treatment plans for these cases also did a better job of protecting surrounding normal tissues and organs.

"Traditional IMRT has been a gold standard for several years in radiotherapy when it came to avoiding healthy tissue and targeting the tumor mass," said Ben Slotman, MD, PhD, professor and chairman of the Department of Radiation Oncology at the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, Netherlands. "We have been so satisfied with the faster treatment planning and the faster delivery with RapidArc that we plan to treat all of our head and neck IMRT candidates using this technology."

Slotman and his colleagues recently treated a 46-year old male with throat cancer. "The RapidArc plan showed better and more even tumor coverage, compared with a standard 7-field IMRT plan," said Slotman. "With RapidArc, we were also able to spare more of the organs at risk than with IMRT," he added. When treating a tumor in the head or neck it is important to avoid the highly sensitive organs nearby, such as the spinal cord, eyes, brainstem, and other vital areas of the central nervous system.

At the Center for Radiation Therapy of Beverly Hills, Henry Yampolsky, MD, recently used RapidArc to deliver an unusual unilateral neck tumor treatment that avoided the opposite half of the 68-year-old patient's oral cavity, salivary glands, and neck.

The treatment involved immobilizing the patient for each of his daily treatments using an awkward mouth piece that immobilized the tongue. "A conventional treatment would have taken 15 minutes a day at least -- a long time to be immobilized in that way. With RapidArc, we had him in and out of there in less than five," Yampolsky said.

"Compared with conventional forms of IMRT, RapidArc also helped us achieve better sparing of the healthy side of the patient's neck," said Yampolsky. "This was important to preserve his salivary function and as much of his oral cavity as possible."

On the other side of the country, a gentleman with advanced throat cancer was able to keep his voice, thanks to RapidArc treatments. This 82-year-old patient had been enjoying an active lifestyle with his wife of 40 years, when a lingering hoarseness led to the discovery of larynx cancer. "One treatment option was for him to have a laryngectomy, which would have removed his voice box, leaving him with no ability to speak and requiring him to breathe through a tracheostomy, which is a hole in the throat," said Shawn H. Zimberg, MD, medical director of radiation oncology at Advanced Radiation Centers of New York. "Another option was a 'larynx preservation' course of radiotherapy." Using RapidArc technology, Zimberg and his team were able to deliver a non-invasive radiotherapy treatment very quickly, and preserve this patient's larynx and voice.

"Prior to his treatment, we compared two radiotherapy plans. One was for conventional IMRT and the other for a RapidArc treatment," Zimberg added. "It was clear that the RapidArc plan was going to spare more of his normal tissues from radiation, reducing the likelihood of undesirable side effects. Clearly, being able to preserve his larynx while limiting the toxicity of his treatment has great potential for significantly improving the quality of life for this patient and his family after treatment is over."

RapidArc radiotherapy technology has now been used for the treatment of prostate, head and neck, lung, brain, spine, bone, gynecological, and soft tissue cancers. The American Cancer Society estimates that 1.4 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed in the US in 2008, including over 35,300 cases of oral and throat cancer.

RapidArc radiotherapy technology is on display this week in the Varian booth at the 2008 European Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ESTRO) meeting in Gothenburg, Sweden. Varian can be found at Booth 03:22 at the Gothenburg Convention Center.

About Varian Medical Systems

Varian Medical Systems, Inc., of Palo Alto, California, is the world's leading manufacturer of medical devices and software for treating cancer and other medical conditions with radiotherapy, radiosurgery, proton therapy, and brachytherapy. The company supplies informatics software for managing comprehensive cancer clinics, radiotherapy centers and medical oncology practices. Varian is a premier supplier of tubes and digital detectors for X-ray imaging in medical, scientific, and industrial applications and also supplies X-ray imaging products for cargo screening and industrial inspection. Varian Medical Systems employs approximately 4,800 people who are located at manufacturing sites in North America and Europe and in its 60 sales and support offices around the world. For more information, visit


Meryl Ginsberg, Varian Medical Systems

650-424-6444 or

SOURCE Varian Medical Systems, Inc.
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