MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper is 1st in region to offer breakthrough radiation treatment technology

Procedure, which combines MRI and linear accelerator radiation treatment, only is offered in 5 locations in U.S.

Physicians at MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper have begun treating patients with the Elekta Unity MR-Linac device, a groundbreaking new image-guided radiation treatment system that combines magnetic resonance imaging and linear accelerator radiation treatment into one powerful device.

The new device gives radiation oncologists the ability to deliver more effective treatment, while minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissue in complex cases. MD Anderson at Cooper is one of only five cancer centers in the U.S., and the first in the region, to offer patients this treatment technology.

Dr. Anthony Dragun, chair and chief of radiation oncology at MD Anderson at Cooper, said the ability to perform the procedure will have impact.

“This is an exciting time for us, and tremendous news for patients needing radiation therapy,” he said.  “It gives our multidisciplinary team more treatment options, especially for patients with complex and metastatic cancers, to deliver truly personalized cancer care.”

Dragun said approximately 50% of all cancer patients receive radiation therapy as part of their treatment plan. A primary objective in radiation therapy is to deliver the proper dose of radiation to the tumor without harming surrounding healthy tissue. Because the location of a tumor can shift as the patient inhales and exhales during treatment, or as the tumor itself changes, maintaining accuracy can be challenging, he said.

“The device acts as a GPS system — continuously monitoring the tumor as it moves and readjusting the radiation beams in real time — for the ultimate in precision,” he said.

The Elekta Unity MR-Linac device. (MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper)

The first patient to be treated using the Elekta Unity system at MD Anderson at Cooper was an 80-year-old woman with a tumor on her spine. The patient’s tumor, which is precariously located, made her an appropriate candidate for this precision therapy.

While MRI and linear accelerator technologies have been used separately for years to diagnosis and treat cancer, until now, the two technologies could not be used together because of the MRI’s magnetic field and its effect on the accelerator’s laser beam.

MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, MD Anderson at Cooper’s clinical partner, was part of the international consortium instrumental in developing this new technology. This technology was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2019.

Treatment with this new device is available at MD Anderson at Cooper’s outpatient center located at 715 Fellowship Road in Mount Laurel.

Cooper co-CEO Kevin O’Dowd said the procedure is another example of Cooper’s commitment to finding the best treatment options.

“As the leading cancer center in the region, MD Anderson at Cooper is committed to offering patients innovative cancer treatment options,” he said. “The availability of the new MR-Linac is the latest example of this commitment.”

Co-CEO Anthony Mazzarelli agreed.

“This is another first in our arsenal of treatment options at MD Anderson at Cooper, and we are proud to be the first in the region and among only a handful of hospitals in the nation currently to offer this new therapy to our patients,” he said.

O’Dowd said MD Anderson at Cooper will continue to offer a full range of advanced radiation therapy treatment options at its Camden and Voorhees locations. (See the options here.)