Memorial Sloan Kettering has long been a pioneer in developing and improving effective ways to destroy tumors safely with radiation therapy. For some people with cancer, we are able use a radiation therapy technique called MSK Precise®. It is a form of hypofractionated radiation therapy. MSK Precise has been proven safe and effective and also reduces the number of treatments, so you can more quickly get back to what is important to you.
When you receive radiation therapy, the total radiation dose is most often split into many small portions. These fractions are delivered over several weeks. Hypofractionated radiation therapy such as MSK Precise splits the total radiation dose into fewer fractions of larger doses given over a shorter period. This approach is possible because the radiation beam can be very precisely targeted to the site of a tumor. This method of radiation delivery is called stereotactic because it uses special equipment to position the patient and deliver the radiation to an exact spot. With MSK Precise, you will be treated by MSK radiation oncologists with extensive experience, using state-of-the-art equipment and highly advanced imaging techniques to ensure greater precision and safety.
Hypofractionated stereotactic radiation therapy is highly effective even though it requires fewer treatment sessions. At higher doses, radiation therapy can work better at killing cancer cells or slowing their growth by damaging their DNA. Cancer cells whose DNA is damaged beyond repair stop dividing or die. The high-dose radiation also damages blood vessels in and around the tumor, hampering its blood supply. This form of radiation can safely deliver treatment in fewer visits to your doctor, so it can allow you to spend more time on things that matter most to you.
MSK Precise radiation therapy can be an optimal treatment choice for some people with prostate, breast, lung, and brain tumors.
MSK Precise for Prostate Cancer
At MSK, hypofractionated radiation therapy has been effective for many of our patients with prostate cancer, especially those whose cancer has not spread elsewhere in the body. We use innovative imaging technologies and real-time tracking combined with a sophisticated computer system to deliver very high doses of radiation to tumors. The treatment is accurate within a millimeter. This approach requires only five treatment sessions of three to four minutes each. The entire course of treatment can be completed in a little over a week. Conventional radiation approaches take 45-50 sessions over nine to ten weeks.
Because of its superior precision, MSK Precise has less side effects than more conventional radiation techniques, with extremely low rates of incontinence (urinary leakage) and rectal problems. The sexual side effects are low and similar to what is experienced with conventional external radiation techniques. A special feature of MSK Precise for prostate cancer is the use of a unique gel that is applied between the prostate and rectum. This creates a buffer that prevents unnecessary radiation from affecting healthy tissue and further reduces the risk of side effects. MSK has the most experience of any hospital in the world using this type of protection.
MSK Precise for Breast Cancer
Many women with early-stage breast cancer now received hypofractionated radiation therapy after lumpectomy (surgery to remove cancerous breast tissue). Using an approach that gives higher daily doses while reducing the total dose may reduce skin reactions and side effects. This holds the promise of being less disruptive to busy lives while still being effective.
MSK Precise for Lung Cancer
Hypofractionated radiation therapy can help people with non-small cell lung cancer whose tumors are small and confined to the lung. This approach can be effective for people who are not able to have surgery or when used in combination with chemotherapy, targeted therapies, or immunotherapy. To ensure safety while using the higher radiation doses, our researchers are testing a sophisticated tumor-tracking system that produces a 3-D representation of the tumor’s location at all times. This ensures that the radiation targets it precisely.
MSK Precise for Brain Cancer
Hypofractionated radiation therapy is becoming an increasingly common approach for people with smaller brain tumors. It is also being used for people with a small number of brain metastases (cancer that has spread to the brain from other parts of the body). In some cases, a high-dose treatment can be given in a single day, replacing other types of radiation therapy that are delivered in lower daily doses for a longer period, usually several weeks. It can be done on an outpatient basis and requires minimal — or no — interruption of other treatments, such as chemotherapy.