Cancer patients in the State of Qatar now have access to the latest and most technologically advanced radiotherapy treatments with the installation of two new linear accelerators at Al Amal Hospital, Hamad Medical Corporation's cancer care facility. The new systems were unveiled by Dr Hanan Al Kuwari, managing director of HMC at an official opening ceremony today.
"The installation of two new linear accelerators at Al Amal Hospital will considerably enhance radiotherapy treatment and care for our cancer patients," said Dr Al Kuwari at the ceremony.
Dr Al Kuwari pointed out that this achievement represents a milestone in providing state-of-the-art technology to patients in Qatar. "This technology will help us to achieve our goal of becoming a reference center in the region for the most advanced cancer therapeutic and diagnostic techniques."
The Radiation Oncology Department is the only center of its kind in the country and one of the most advanced in the region. "We have always strived to ensure that the treatments offered to cancer patients in Qatar parallel those found in any prestigious cancer center globally", said Dr Noora Al Hammadi, director of the Radiation Oncology program. "What makes the machines installed at Al Amal Hospital so exciting is the ability to precisely track and target tumors using real time image guidance and a fast treatment technique called RapidArcTM".
"We are very proud that we are one of the earliest centers worldwide to offer this technology. At the moment we have 9 patients under treatment who are benefitting from the RapidArc technique. These include brain, prostate and head and neck tumors. Evidence suggests that techniques such as Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT) and RapidArc will revolutionize the way radiotherapy is delivered and potentially improve patient outcomes", noted Dr Al Hammadi.
"Faster treatment that adapts radiation doses to the tumor are always desirable in radiotherapy, particularly for patient outcomes," Al Hammadi added. "We are very pleased about the potential of this technology. IGRT enables clinicians to minimize the volume of normal tissue exposed to the radiation beam, giving us the capability of using higher doses when the patient needs them".
In order to guide the radiation delivery to the tumor, radiation therapists take 2D or 3D images (Cone Beam CT) prior to each treatment session. "Comparison of the treatment with the planned images gives us confidence in our precision before we initiate treatment", said Rabih Hammoud, chief medical physicist at Al Amal Hospital and a leading expert in IGRT. "This is a major technical advance in our specialty and we have worked hard to ensure its implementation here".
Another key development unveiled at the opening was the implementation of the radiosurgery service at the hospital. The department can now perform complex radiosurgical treatments, delivering powerful, high-precision doses to brain tumours or small cancers throughout the body. The service, in conjunction with the Neurosurgery Department at HMC, will allow radiation beams to remove diseased tissue, without need for a surgical procedure.
To facilitate the new advances, the department's treatment planning computer systems have all been upgraded and the department now operates as a "paperless" environment for treatment delivery. "We have integrated all the systems to ensure that clinicians have access to all elements of the patient's record at the computer terminal", explained Dr Al Hammadi.
On this day a cooperation contract was signed between the manufacturer, Varian Medical Systems, and Al Amal Hospital to designate the Radiotherapy Department as a reference center in the Gulf Region for RapidArc, IGRT, and other technologically advanced radiotherapy techniques. In this case the hospital will be designated as a 'demonstration site' in the region where visiting delegates may see the technology implemented clinically.
The Department of Radiation Oncology at Al Amal Hospital treats approximately 350 new cancer patients from across the Gulf region annually. The department performs approximately 6000 treatment sessions each year and its patients represent a complex mix of all types of tumours, including pediatric cases and a large proportion of breast cancer patients.