Today, the prognosis for a growing number of cancer patients is life. Major contributing factors to this trend are the amazing technological advances that have taken place in the past few years and the availability of community-based oncology programs.
Just ask John Javage about the importance of having access to leading-edge cancer care. After being treated at another hospital, the 63-year-old Costa Mesa resident learned that his prostate cancer treatment had failed. But he didn’t give up hope. Instead, John turned to MemorialCare’s Nisar Syed, M.D., one of the world’s leading authorities on high-dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy—an innovative form of internal radiation therapy.
“Brachytherapy kills cancer cells using precisely targeted radioactive material placed in or near tumors,” Dr. Syed explains. “In HDR brachytherapy, we use a very high-intensity radiation source that is inserted into the tumor and then withdrawn a few minutes later. The great advantage of this procedure is that you can administer intense doses of radiation to the tumor with minimal harm to healthy tissue.”
During John’s treatment, the radioactive source was inserted into needles that were precisely positioned directly into his prostate gland based on CT imaging. But first, John was treated with hyperthermia. This therapy uses radiofrequency or microwave energy to increase the temperature of tumors up to 111 degrees Fahrenheit, making the cancerous cells more sensitive to chemotherapy or radiation. “Using both modalities allows us to successfully treat patients with complex, recurrent, or advanced disease who may not have other options,” Dr. Syed says. “What is most exciting is that we will have a full range of these and other breakthrough therapies in the new Orange County CyberKnife and Radiation Oncology Center.”
Under the leadership of Ajmel Puthawala, M.D., medical director of radiation oncology services, the center offers patients needing radiation therapy comprehensive care from a team of renowned experts. In addition to brachytherapy and hyperthermia, the center will feature state-of-the-art technology, including a RapidArc™ linear accelerator. This sophisticated device delivers targeted radiation with greater speed and precision than do traditional forms of intensitymodulated radiation therapy (IMRT).
“During a RapidArc treatment, the linear accelerator travels in a 360-degree arc around the patient,” says Anil Sharma, Ph.D., head of medical physics at Orange Coast. The speed of its rotation and the shape and intensity of the radiation beam are continually regulated so they precisely match the contour and depth of the tumor. Accuracy to within 2 to 3 millimeters is assured using images from an onboard CT scanner. The entire treatment takes about two minutes.
Orange Coast Memorial is the only hospital-based location in Orange County with a CyberKnife. “This revolutionary instrument beams powerful, precisely targeted radiation at tumors once considered untreatable,” says Dr. Puthawala. The CyberKnife and other radiation therapies are located in Orange Coast Memorial’s Patient Care Pavilion. This state-of-the-art facility is home to internationally recognized cancer specialists and resources dedicated to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
Diagnosed with tongue cancer nearly two decades ago, Huntington Harbor resident Ron Bergstrom received groundbreaking treatment from Dr. Syed, Dr. Puthawala and radiation oncologist Harold Klem, M.D.
“My doctors have always been there for me,” says Ron. “I’ve been cancer-free since 1993, but I still need annual checkups. Several times after treatment, my wife and I thought my cancer had returned. Each time, my doctors made the time to see me and discuss what was going on, limiting the amount of stress we had to endure. My message to them is, thank you for the past 16 years with my wife, children and grandchildren.” John Javage adds, “I call Dr. Syed the ‘Grand Master.’ We’re unbelievably lucky to have some of the finest physicians in the country right here at Orange Coast.”