Roswell Park is now treating patients with a brand-new, state-of-the-art Gamma Knife radiosurgery device, the Leksell Gamma Knife® Icon™ — the most advanced technology of its kind on the market. Roswell Park is the first cancer center in the United States to receive a license to operate it and remains the only facility in Western New York with Gamma Knife capabilities. We have used Gamma Knife radiosurgery to treat patients with brain tumors and metastases for 18 years. This latest technology comes with certain advances that mean more patients may qualify as candidates for the treatment, and the ultra-high accuracy minimizes long-term side effects, improving outcomes.
What is Gamma Knife Radiosurgery?
Gamma Knife radiosurgery isn’t a knife at all, but a type of extremely precise and sharply focused radiation therapy that treats cancer tumors and lesions in the brain. The precision of the tool is “surgical,” but there’s no cutting, no incisions, and no requirement for anesthesia. Patients are awake and go home after the treatment, resuming normal activities.
The minimally invasive treatment uses a unique technology that produces 192 intersecting beams of gamma radiation. The individual beams pass through the body without causing damage — preserving healthy brain tissue — until the point where they intersect, destroying cancer cells.
No other regional facility has the integrated oncology and radiation medicine experts with the training, qualifications and expertise to perform Gamma Knife radiosurgery. Roswell Park treats 400 patients with this procedure annually.
Who Can Receive Gamma Knife Treatment?
Patients with many brain tumors, brain metastases and select brain disorders. Conditions treated with Gamma Knife at Roswell Park include:
- Metastatic brain tumors and lesions arising from primary tumors of the breast, kidney, colon, skin (melanoma), uterus or other organs
- Brain tumors, malignant or benign, including:
- Gliomas (glioblastoma, astrocytoma, oligodendroglioma)
- Pituitary adenomas
- Trigeminal neuralgia/tic douloureux
- Arteriovenous malformation
- Acoustic neuroma (vestibular schwannoma)
- Essential tremor and other movement disorders
Advantages of the New Gamma Knife
- Better accuracy. Targets larger tumors with accuracy to within .15 mm, compared to other techniques such as Linac Stereotactic Radiosurgery.
- Real-time dose confirmation. Integrated cone-beam CT imaging and software continuously control radiation dose delivery. If the patient moves out of the target area, treatment automatically stops.
- Frameless fixation. The new device can accommodate frameless techniques (such as a molded face mask) rather than a frame (rigid metal device affixed to the skull) to hold the patient’s head in position.
- Fractionated treatment delivery. The frameless method enhances our ability to fractionate treatment across multiple sessions, allowing for a higher and more effective overall maximum dose to be delivered more safely and with fewer side effects — even for larger tumors, and tumors close to critical structures.
- Maximizes patient comfort options while maintaining the guaranteed accuracy expected from the Gamma Knife, making it the gold standard for cranial radiosurgery.
New Option for Recurrent Tumors
Recurrent tumors of the skull base and head can now be treated with Gamma Knife, offering a new therapeutic approach to patients.
Improving Outcomes and Quality of Life
Gamma Knife provides a highly favorable approach to treating the brain compared to next-best methods such as conventional neurosurgery, standard whole-brain radiation therapy (WBRT) and Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT).
At facilities and hospitals without Gamma Knife capability, patients with brain tumors and metastases would likely undergo WBRT. This approach involves radiating the brain in such a way that exposes all brain tissues to the potentially damaging effects of radiation. With Gamma Knife radiosurgery, only 0.5% of the brain is radiated, preserving significantly more healthy brain tissue and brain function down the road, improving both medical outcomes and quality of life for patients.