Published on May 30, 2012

With TrueBeam, Mary Greeley Medical Center Takes Cancer Treatment to the Next Level

One of only two hospitals in Iowa to offer this state-of-the-art radiation technology


TrueBeam in the Bliss Cancer Center at Mary Greeley Medical Center

Radiation Oncologists at
the Blss Cancer Center
Gregory Yee, MD,
Shane Hopkins, MD &
Joseph Rhoades, MD.

AMES, IA – Mary Greeley Medical Center is now treating cancer patients with TrueBeam radiotherapy technology, an advanced system that uses noninvasive tumor-destroying radiation to treat cancers throughout the body, while minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissue.

TrueBeam is provided through the William R. Bliss Cancer Center, a joint service of Mary Greeley Medical Center and McFarland Clinic. Mary Greeley is the second medical center in the state to have the TrueBeam system. The public will have a chance to see TrueBeam at an open house at the William R. Bliss Cancer Center on Sunday, June 3, from 1 to 3 p.m.

“With TrueBeam, we are able to deliver radiation therapy faster and more precisely,” says Shane Hopkins, M.D., McFarland Clinic radiation oncologist. “This increases the options we have available in caring for our patients.”

One of the primary benefits for patients is that treatment takes less time and is, therefore, much more comfortable. Traditional radiation oncology treatments can take more than an hour to administer and sometimes require daily appointments for weeks. Because radiation therapy requires patients to remain still while treatment is being delivered, the shorter the “table time” – the amount of time the patient spends lying on the table in the treatment room – the better.

TrueBeam can deliver radiation seven times faster than conventional radiotherapy, meaning patients experience reduced table time. This is particularly important for newer therapies in which fewer treatments and a larger dose are used. With the addition of TrueBeam, William R. Bliss Cancer Center now has two linear accelerators available.

“We have always been able to treat patients very effectively, that’s not the issue,” says Joseph Rhoades, M.D., McFarland Clinic radiation oncologist. “This just delivers the dose of radiation so quickly that patient comfort is dramatically improved. And that comfort cannot be understated when you are providing care to cancer patients.”

“This will allow us to treat more complex cancers,” adds Rhoades, who partners to provide care with Dr. Hopkins and Gregory Yee, M.D. “Patients we may have had to refer to larger hospitals in the past can now receive leading edge treatment here. Cutting down on travel is a huge benefit for patients and families battling cancer.”

Two out of three people who are diagnosed with cancer undergo some form of radiotherapy as part of their treatment according to the American Society for Radiation Oncology. In simplest terms, radiotherapy uses beams of radiation to destroy cancer cells. TrueBeam offers a number of advanced functions that allow for faster, more accurate treatment, including intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) and image-guided radiotherapy (IGRT).

IMRT is a treatment technique where doctors customize the radiation dose affecting normal parts of the body by varying the amount of radiation delivered through them. IGRT uses advanced imaging so doctors and clinicians can visualize the tumor. This allows for verification of the exact location of the tumor so it can be precisely targeted.

“Radiation oncology is a proven and very effective therapy,” Hopkins says. “As a result, there has been a tremendous amount of advancement in the technology. But with that, it has been kind of disjointed. Not until the introduction of TrueBeam has there been a linear accelerator that offered hardware and software engineered hand-in-hand, digitally from beginning to end.”

That concerted development truly sets the TrueBeam apart.

“Because of the way the TrueBeam is designed, we can add new treatment options to the machine as they are introduced,” says Brian MacPhail, board certified medical physicist in the William R. Bliss Cancer Center. MacPhail works closely with the physicians and staff to determine the proper amount of radiation to deliver during treatment and is responsible for quality control with the linear accelerators. “This flexibility ensures we can offer state-of-the-art treatment for the life of the machine.”