Improving radiotherapy for cancer patients at Groote Schuur Hospital
On 2 October 2019, the Groote Schuur Hospital’s Oncology Department unveiled its new R35 million halcyon radiotherapy machine which was recently introduced to manage the growing demand of cancer patients who require radiotherapy. This is the latest investment by Western Cape Government Health in the Oncology Department following the construction of a new bunker, the installation of two radiotherapy machines, and the addition of a new state-of-the-art brachytherapy machine.
The Hospital’s Oncology Department treats approximately 3 000 patients per year, which increases year-on-year. Half of these patients will often require radiotherapy, either as curative or palliative treatment for their cancer. Moreover, Groote Schuur Hospital treats over 38 000 follow-up patients each year. With the new halcyon radiotheraphy machine, the Hospital would be able to treat between 30 and 40 patients per day, almost as double before the machine was introduced.
The new halcyon radiotherapy machine with its linear particle accelerator (linac) features will offer high-quality radiotherapy for how patients are treated. An advantage includes delivering image-guided intensity-modulated radiation therapy, or volumetric arc therapy that is four times faster than standard technology, thus reducing the waiting times patients experience before being treated.
According to the Hospital’s Head of Radiation Oncology Jeannette Parkes, the machine boasts features of auto quality assurance checks, simplified treatment procedures, and a design incorporating self-shielding. “Yet, the Halcyon is able to treat complicated radiotherapy plans that conform to the highest standards in the world. Image guidance allows the treatment team to acquire a cone beam CT of the treatment area (in seconds) while the patient is in position on the treatment bed, and fuse that with the planning CT images. This allows accurate verification of the patient position during every radiotherapy treatment day. This is particularly important for patients who are being treated in areas where soft tissue organs can move with daily physiological changes,” said Professor Parkes.
The Halcyon machine is groundbreaking because it has a totally different design to other linacs, closely resembling a CT scanner. It is also more robust, safer, more automated in terms of operation and quality assurance, and opens the doors for safer, better treatment for a high number of patients. Treatment times are very quick allowing improved comfort for patients and fast throughput. It integrates into the existing Varian ARIA Oncology management system which has recently been upgraded to the latest version software.
Photo caption: At the halcyon radiotheraphy machine, from left: Dr Bernadette Eick (COO of Groote Schuur Hospital), Dr Bhavna Patel (CEO of Groote Schuur Hospital), Prof Jeanette Parkes (Head of Radiation Oncology, Groote Schuur Hospital), Nanette Joubert (Head of Medic Physics, Groote Schuur Hospital), and patient Francios Heynes.
Issued by the Directorate: Communications for Western Cape Government Health.