Respiration-Gated Radiation Therapy
Historically the lungs have presented a challenge to radiation oncologists. The target tumor, like the lung itself, is constantly moving during treatment. For treatment to be effective, a larger area of the lung (and more healthy tissue) is irradiated, to ensure that the tumor is always within the radiation beam. With respiration-gated radiation therapy, the radiation beam is targeted - in real time with the breath - to a specific point in the cycle of respiration. Radiation gating reduces the amount of healthy lung receiving radiation, so a higher dose of radiation-double if not more-can be used. It can also reduce the time of treatment, in some cases from as many as six weeks to only two.
Ultimately, radiation-gating allows us to offer hope to people previously considered to be "untreatable." Patients too sick to have surgery or traditional radiation therapy may be able to receive treatment with respiration-gated radiation therapy. Plans are also underway to expand the use of gating in the near future, to other difficult areas to treat like the pancreas or tumors close to parts of the kidneys.