It’s not uncommon for patients with cancer to develop spinal metastasis, a condition that results in tumours growing along the vertebrae as a result of cancer cells travelling from one part of the body to another. It’s estimated that 40 per cent of patients will develop these tumours during their cancer journey, with most cases found in patients with breast, prostate or lung cancer.
“Spinal metastasis can significantly worsen a patient’s quality of life,” explains Dr. Fabio Ynoe de Moraes, a radiation oncologist at the Cancer Centre of Southeastern Ontario (CCSEO). “Not only are the tumours very painful, but they can compress the spinal cord and potentially lead to neurological loss of function.”
Now, a more effective option is available for patients in southeastern Ontario.
Spinal stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) is a highly effective treatment which delivers high doses of radiation and requires a specially designed platform to ensure that the patient is immobilized. This allows the care team to deliver radiation therapy with more precision than ever before, and ensures that the tissues and organs surrounding the tumours are not at risk.
“The immobilization device, paired with extremely advanced imaging, allows us to target the exact location of the tumour with unparalleled precision,” Dr. Ynoe de Moraes says.
“This means we can deliver high doses of radiation with exceptional accuracy, and that ultimately we can eradicate the patient’s tumours more quickly, so they experience better outcomes and fewer side effects.”
Traditionally, patients could require up to 10 days of radiation to treat spinal metastasis. With this more precise and personalized treatment, patients are seeing significant results after as few as two appointments. Because the device can be reconfigured to immobilize patients in different ways, it can also be used to deliver SBRT treatment for patients with liver, pancreas and prostate cancers.
“We hope that we can continue to build on the use of this equipment to expand our program and offer this treatment to many more patients in our area,” Dr. Ynoe de Moraes adds. “It has the potential to be a solution for many complex cases.”
Prior to this therapy being offered in Kingston, patients had to travel to Ottawa or Toronto for spinal SBRT treatment. This can be a huge burden for many patients and their families who may not be comfortable with, or able to afford, travelling and staying in a larger city for the duration of treatment.
“Being able to offer this treatment here allows the patient to take less time off work, stay closer to the comforts of home, and save money on the expenses of travelling to a larger city,” Dr. Ynoe de Moraes says. “These are some real barriers to care that are significantly reduced now that we have this equipment in Kingston.”
“My wife and I wanted to give some money to a worthwhile cause,” says Ken Sedgewick, who donated the funds purchase the equipment via the University Hospitals Kingston Foundation. “I was introduced to the radiation department last year for cancer treatment and wanted to say ‘thank you’ for their care. We couldn’t be happier that our gift will help patients and their families access this more effective treatment closer to home.”