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Spinal Cancer Patient Finds New Hope at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation

Doctors Now Using Novalis Tx(TM) Technology to Deliver Highly-Accurate Image-Guided Radiosurgery for Hard-to-Reach Tumors

PALO ALTO, Calif., June 22 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Karen Fry, 60, an administrator at UC Santa Cruz, was running out of options in her battle against metastatic breast cancer. A new tumor located in the sacrum, or upper part of the pelvis, was causing intense pain that was spreading and interfering with her ability to walk. Fry turned to a team of doctors at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF), who are now using the Novalis Tx(TM) platform from Varian Medical Systems and BrainLAB to attack tumors with precisely-shaped high-energy X-ray beams.

Before arriving at PAMF, Fry received conventional radiation therapy treatments for the new tumor at another facility. This precluded re-treatment of the area with conventional radiation techniques. "They were worried about causing irrevocable damage to the spinal nerves and other organs like my bladder and bowel," Fry said. To finish the job, Fry's doctor referred her to PAMF, because Novalis Tx can accurately target a tumor while minimizing exposure of tissues and organs only a few millimeters away.

"My situation was very serious," said Fry. "The organs around the tumor couldn't tolerate any more radiation, and so the treatments had to be focused very precisely. Honestly, this felt like my last shot at being treated. But as they were describing what Novalis Tx can do, the clinicians at PAMF projected a positive, can-do attitude that really helped to restore my hopes for a positive outcome."

Fry's treatment was completed over a five-day period, in daily sessions that each took only about 20 minutes to complete. "After the first four sessions, I felt well enough to go back to work," added Fry. "On the last day of treatment, which fell on a Saturday, I left the center and was able to go on with my usual weekend activities."

Combining sophisticated robotic image guidance tools and a controlled beam shaping device, the Novalis Tx platform enables clinicians to direct a precisely sculpted beam at a patient's tumor, while avoiding sensitive tissues nearby.

"The image-guidance tools enable us to verify repeatedly that the beam is accurately striking the intended target," said Gordon Ray, MD, director of the radiation oncology department at PAMF. "In Karen's case, these tools made it possible for us to deliver a very accurate treatment, even though the tumor was just millimeters away from her bowel, sacral, and peripheral nerves."

Dr. Ray continued, "With Novalis Tx, we can treat the full spectrum of cancer cases. The platform is versatile enough to deliver highly accurate radiotherapy treatments for prostate and other types of cancer, along with precise radiosurgery treatments for cancers of the lung and spine. We're able to adapt each treatment to the specific needs of our patients," he said.

About The Palo Alto Medical Foundation

The Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF) for Health Care, Research and Education is a not-for-profit health care organization that is a pioneer in the multispecialty group practice of medicine. PAMF's 900 affiliated physicians and 4,000 employees serve more than 600,000 patients at its medical centers and clinics in Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. PAMF is part of the Peninsula-Coastal Region of Sutter Health, one of the nation's leading not-for-profit networks of community-based health care providers. Sutter Health's Peninsula-Coast Region also includes Mills-Peninsula Health Services. For more information, visit or

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 5,100 people who are located at manufacturing sites in North America, China, and Europe and in its 79 offices and facilities around the world. For more information, visit

About BrainLAB

BrainLAB develops, manufactures and markets software-driven medical technology that enables procedures that are more precise, less invasive, and also less expensive than traditional treatments. Among the core products are image-guided systems that provide highly accurate real-time information used for navigation during surgical procedures. This utility has been further expanded to serve as a computer terminal for physicians to more effectively access and interpret diagnostic scans and other digital medical information for better informed decisions. BrainLAB solutions allow expansion from a single system to operating suites to digitally integrated hospitals covering all subspecialties from neurosurgery, orthopedics, ENT, CMF to spine & trauma and oncology. With 3300 systems installed in over 75 countries, BrainLAB is a market leader in image-guided technology. The privately held BrainLAB group, founded in 1989, is headquartered in Munich, Germany, and today employs 1000 people in 16 offices across Europe, Asia, Australia, North and South America. To learn more, visit

    John Worlton, Varian Medical Systems
    650-424-6438 or

    Ben Drew, Palo Alto Medical Foundation
    650-691-6228 or

SOURCE Varian Medical Systems, Inc.
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