The Detroit-based Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute is the first in Michigan to acquire and treat patients with the new Leksell Gamma Knife Icon, the most precise stereotactic radiosurgery system available to treat patients. It is housed and used at the Lawrence and Idell Weisberg Cancer Treatment Center in Farmington Hills.
The treatment center had a special space built to accommodate the new technology as part of its recent renovations. Karmanos neurosurgeons and radiation oncologists treated the first patient with the Leksell Gamma Knife Icon in June and have treated 22 patients since, all successfully. Karmanos specialists can treat up to three patients each day with the therapy.
“This specialized form of radiotherapy offers patients and physicians the most advanced technology for treating certain conditions including metastatic brain tumors and benign conditions,” says Dr. Justin Klamerus, president of the Karmanos Cancer Hospital and Network. “We are excited to be the first in Michigan to offer patients this innovative treatment in an environment that optimizes the patient’s experience.”
The Gamma Knife Icon is a radiosurgical method to treat select intracranial locations such as the brain, brain stem or trigeminal nerve. It does not involve a blade but instead uses non-invasive radiation beams to target the tumor, sparing healthy brain and body tissue.
During treatment, up to 192 radiation beams are directed to one or several intracranial lesions so the targeted tissue receives a concentrated dose of radiation. The source of the radiation is cobalt, and the shape and dose of the radiation is optimized to focus on the exact location.
Once the patient is in position, MRI scans find the location of the tumor in 3-D so it can be targeted. The treatment can last from 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the tumor and target volume. Patients can listen to music during the procedure, and physicians communicate with them via intercom.
“One of the unique features of offering this precise Icon at our Farmington Hills location is that patients can receive this treatment in our beautiful and comfortable outpatient center instead of in a hospital setting,” says Dr. Michael Dominello, director for Gamma Knife Radiosurgery at Karmanos Cancer Institute and assistant professor in the Department of Oncology at Wayne State University School of Medicine.
“From an expertise standpoint, the radiation oncologist, neurosurgeon, and neuroradiologist are all on-site participating together as a team in the planning and reviewing of the final treatment plan, prior to the patient’s treatment delivery.”
Most Gamma Knife facilities are located in the basements of large hospitals, as was the case with the Gamma Knife that Karmanos previously had at its main campus in Detroit. The entire process, including MRI and PET scans, now happens at the Farmington Hills facility.
The new technology can treat targets from a few millimeters to several centimeters in size, including in areas of the brain that cannot be accessed with traditional surgery or are situated close to or inside critical areas such as the brain stem, visual cortex, and motor cortex. The non-invasive technique can be used as a standalone treatment for a variety of brain tumors and neurological disorders or as a boost following brain radiation therapy or surgical resection to decrease the chance of recurrence.
Conventional radiation therapy is delivered over the course of fractions, or treatments with time in between to allow healthy tissue to recover. Gamma Knife treatment is usually delivered in a single fraction because it spares healthy brain tissue and eliminates some side effects associated with more traditional therapies.
Most patients go home after the procedure and can resume normal activities the next day.
Karmanos’ Lawrence and Idell Weisberg Cancer Treatment Center opened in 2001 and added the $16 million Gamma Knife suite with the adjoining PET and MRI area, as well as clinic rooms, as the first part of a two-phase expansion project that started in mid-2018. The first phase was recently completed.
The second phase is underway and expected to be completed in 2022. This will include an additional $30 million investment to expand the facility to about 64,000 square feet, up from 17,700 square feet. The expansion will enhance clinic and infusion areas, radiation, radiology and imaging services, the pharmacy and laboratory, and patient services. The total project is being financed through internal funds and philanthropy.
The Karmanos Cancer Institute has 16 locations throughout Michigan.