Written by Susan Shelly – Reading Eagle Correspondent
The Bern Township hospital has acquired a TrueBeam linear accelerator.
The star of the show during an open house last week at Penn State Health St. Joseph was not a hospital official, physician or even the Penn State mascot, who joined the< event celebrating a $5.5 million expansion to the hospital's cancer center.
Central to the event was the hospital’s new TrueBeam linear accelerator, a state-of-the-art machine that delivers what is said to be the most advanced radiation technology available to remove tumors. The linear accelerator is fully integrated for image-guided radiotherapy and radiosurgery.
It can be used to treat cancer anywhere in the body where radiation treatment is appropriate, including lung, breast, prostate gland and head and neck.
The TrueBeam linear accelerator enables providers to capture and analyze data relating to a particular patient, and to adjust the type of radiation delivered depending on
the patient’s needs.
“As a technology, this allows us to treat cancers faster, with a lot greater precision and accuracy,” explained Dr. Navesh Sharma, a radiation oncologist at the cancer
Sharma, who is nationally and internationally known for his expertise with Selective Internal Radiation Therapy, or SIRT, a treatment that targets tumors in the liver with
precise, high doses of radiation while sparing as much normal tissue as possible, is excited about the acquisition of the TrueBeam linear accelerator.
“It’s another tool that helps us to deliver the very best care possible to our patients,” Sharma said. “It definitely enhances the capabilities that we had in the past.”
Penn State Health St. Joseph also has an older model linear accelerator, but it has less capacity than the new one.
Sharma, who came to Penn State Health St. Joseph in 2015 from the University of Maryland, said that knowing the hospital would be acquiring the TrueBeam linear
accelerator factored into his decision to make a move.
“That’s one of the things that lured me here,” he said. “Knowing that I would get to work with this machine was a motivating factor for me.”
Experts at the University of Maryland developed the software for the TrueBeam linear accelerator, said Sharma, who also is a faculty member at Penn State Health Milton
S. Hershey Medical Center, and he was well aware of its capabilities.
Complementary to the TrueBeam system is an extracranial tracking system used to treat prostate cancers.
Calypso Extracranial Tracking, known as the GPS for the prostate, tracks tumors in real time, detecting the slightest movement of the tumor and guiding the physician in
repositioning of the patient, if necessary.
This, explained Sharma, enables him to target the tumor with extreme precision and avoid affecting healthy surrounding tissue. It also reduces the amount of time needed
to deliver the treatment, down to about five minutes from 20.
Planning for the new linear accelerator, which was delivered in September and saw its first patient in December, was in the works for three years, according to Tamara
Devries, a radiation therapy physicist at Penn State Health St. Joseph.
A 2,400 square-foot wing including a specialty vault was added to the cancer center to accommodate the linear accelerator, which weighs 15,000 pounds.
“It was quite a project, because we wanted to make sure we got it exactly right,” Devries said. “We waited for a long time for this machine.”
The TrueBeam system, which requires 16 computers to operate, is the only such machine available in Berks County, according to John R. Morahan, president and chief
executive officer of Penn State Health St. Joseph.
The radiotherapy system will be an important tool for the capable doctors in the hospital’s cancer center.
“We are pleased to be able to put the power of TrueBeam into the skilled hands of Penn State Health doctors like Dr. Sharma,” Morahan said.