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UC Davis Installs Better Linear Accelerator for Animal Cancer Patients

By Clay Jackson
Veterinary Practice News

Posted: Nov. 13, 2013, 11:55 a.m. EST

Pet owners have one more reason to be hopeful when they check in their dog or cat—or even goat or horse—at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the University of California, Davis.

That’s because UC Davis has acquired a TrueBeam linear accelerator designed for faster, less invasive and more precise radiotherapy treatment of malignant tumors in animals.

The cost of adding the linear accelerator, or linac in shorthand, was more than $3 million.

"Since the machine is larger than our previous version, and couldn’t be easily replaced in the same room, that figure includes demolition of the room that held the previous linac and reconstruction of that area to accommodate the new machine,” the university reported.

How It Works

The 10.5-ton TrueBeam unit runs on 480 volts of electricity, said Mike Harral, a construction project manager for Varian Medical Systems who was quoted in a 2011 article on the PBT Consulting website.

The low power is transferred into microwaves that are accelerated toward a metal plate at nearly the speed of light. When the particles hit the metal plate, radiation is generated.

The rest of the equipment shapes the radiation into the exact size and shape of the tumor and directs it to the target.
The multimillion-dollar addition was paid for through donations to the School of Veterinary Medicine along with funding from the hospital and the UC Davis Center for Companion Animal Health.

The linear accelerator is the same type used in human medicine. The only difference is that different patient positioning devices are utilized to accommodate animals.

The TrueBeam linear accelerator is manufactured by Varian Medical Systems of Palo Alto, Calif., and replaces a version that served UC Davis veterinary clients for nine years.

TrueBeam was developed with human cancer patients in mind, noted Meryl Ginsberg, a Varian spokeswoman.

"It’s pretty unusual for veterinary hospitals to treat animals with radiotherapy,” she said.

Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine acquired a linac in 1981, becoming the first veterinary hospital to use one for treatment and research, according to Varian.

TrueBeam became commercially available in April 2010.

"With a built-in CT, the TrueBeam is a major step up from our last linear accelerator,” said Michael Kent, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, Dipl. ACVR, a radiation oncologist and acting director of the Center for Companion Animal Health.

"With a broad spectrum of new capabilities, this new linear accelerator makes it possible for us to offer faster, more targeted treatments to tumors, even as they move and change over time,” Dr. Kent added.

The new system is significantly better from its predecessor in other ways:

• Dose delivery rates are 40 to 140 percent higher.

• "Intelligent” automation offers up to a fivefold reduction in the number of steps needed for image guidance and dose delivery.

• Simple treatments that once took 15 minutes may be completed in less than two minutes.

• The system’s precision is measured in increments of less than a millimeter.

• Accuracy checks happen in 10-millisecond increments throughout the treatment.

What it all means is patients will spend less time under anesthesia, making their treatments far safer, Kent said.

The system produces 3-D images that are used to fine-tune tumor targeting.

"This machine allows us to choose an imaging mode that minimizes the amount of X-rays needed to generate an image, and that’s good for our patients,” Kent said.
 TrueBeam
A dog is treated using William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital’s new linear accelerator, which rotates around a patient to focus radiation directly at a tumor. The machine was dedicated Nov. 3.

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