UNC Health Care is first in Carolinas to offer ‘GPS for the Body’ treatment

UNC Health Care is the first medical center in North Carolina or South Carolina to begin treating cancer patients with a new system that tracks movement of the prostate to provide safer, more accurate radiation therapy.

June 11, 2008 

UNC Health Care is first in Carolinas to offer ‘GPS for the Body®’ treatment

UNC Health Care is the first medical center in North Carolina or South Carolina to begin treating cancer patients with a new system that tracks movement of the prostate to provide safer, more accurate radiation therapy.

The system, called the Calypso 4D Localization System®, uses three tiny electromagnetic transponders – each about the size of a seed or a grain of rice – implanted in the prostate. These transponders send out signals that are used to track movement of the gland in real time, much like a global positioning or GPS system in an automobile tracks the vehicle’s movement. For that reason, the manufacturer of the Calypso system also calls it “GPS for the Body®.”

In addition to the transponders, the Calypso system includes a console the size of a large rolling suitcase, an electromagnetic array to receive the transponder signals, a tracking workstation and infrared cameras installed in the treatment room.

“Many things can cause the prostate to move during radiation therapy, ” said Dr. Joel Tepper, a UNC Health Care radiation oncologist and member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. “For example, if the patient makes small motions during treatment, or if the body changes internally due to bowel or bladder activity, the prostate can move enough to introduce errors in the precise radiation targeting. This movement makes it difficult to keep the radiation beam focused on the tumor and to avoid irradiating surrounding healthy tissues that should not receive radiation.

“We believe the Calypso system will make a real difference in patient outcome, by delivering radiation only where it is needed and thus reducing the side effects that are associated with radiation therapy, as well as assuring that the tumor receives the full radiation dose to maximize the chance of curing the tumor,” Tepper said.

Dr. Eric Wallen, a UNC Health Care urologist and member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, implants the transponders during a 15-minute outpatient procedure in the Urology Clinic at UNC Hospitals. The process is similar to a hollow-needle biopsy.

Once the transponders are safely in place, radiation treatment follows. UNC Health Care’s first patient to be treated with the Calypso System began his course of radiation therapy in early May.

For more information about prostate cancer treatment at UNC Health Care, see http://cancer.med.unc.edu/ or call 919-966-9696 or 1-866-828-0270 (toll free).

Media contact:  Tom Hughes, 919-966-6047, tahughes@unch.unc.edu



ABOUT UNC HEALTH CARE
The UNC Health Care System is a not-for-profit integrated health care system owned by the state of North Carolina and based in Chapel Hill. It exists to further the teaching mission of the University of North Carolina and to provide state-of-the-art patient care. UNC Health Care is comprised of UNC Hospitals, which is ranked among the top 50 in the nation in six specialties by U.S. News & World Report and ranked one of the country’s 41 best on the Leapfrog 2007 Top Hospitals list; the UNC School of Medicine, a nationally eminent research institution; community practices; home health and hospice services in seven central North Carolina counties; and Rex Healthcare and its provider network in Wake County. UNC Health Care also manages Chatham Hospital in Siler City.
 

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