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Robot puts BIDMC a step ahead in cancer radiation therapy

Imagine a robot capable of directing small harmless beams from 1,200 different positions and angles to kill cancer cells, spare surrounding tissue while leaving patients free of cumbersome and uncomfortable devices that restrict their movement.

BOSTON - Imagine a robot capable of directing small harmless beams from 1,200 different positions and angles to kill cancer cells, spare surrounding tissue while leaving patients free of cumbersome and uncomfortable devices that restrict their movement.

There's no need to imagine any more. Meet CyberKnife and its image-guided robot.

The Keith C. Field CyberKnife Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is the first in New England to offer this technology. It functions as a kind of global positioning system to continuously track a patient's movement and the position and shape of the tumor before administering treatment. The real-time tracking feature makes it possible to treat cancers that move with each breath, such as lung and pancreatic tumors.

Compared to conventional radiosurgical devices that use a single, large uniform beam, CyberKnife releases beams that intersect and converge within less than a millimeter of the tumor or lesion site, sparing healthy surrounding tissue. Since the minimally invasive procedure doesn't require sedation or incisions, there is little recovery time or side effects.

Because CyberKnife's beam intensity can deliver three times the amount of radiation, patients who have previously reached the lifetime dose limit of traditional radiation therapy can receive additional treatment.

The center, supported in large part by a $2.25 million gift from Sheldon G. and Dr. Miriam Adelson, is dedicated to Keith C. Field, Adelson's brother-in-law, who had been treated for lung cancer at BIDMC. The late husband of Gloria Adelson Field of Sudbury, he had served as a corporate vice president of the Interface Group and had been active in many charities and organizations in the greater Boston community.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a patient care, teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School, and ranks fourth in National Institutes of Health funding among independent hospitals nationwide. BIDMC is clinically affiliated with the Joslin Diabetes Center and is a research partner of Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. BIDMC is the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox.