Swedish Establishes Integrated Radiosurgery Center; Gamma Knife Paired with CyberKnife® in First Fac

Swedish Establishes Integrated Radiosurgery Center; Gamma Knife Paired with CyberKnife® in First Facility of its Kind in the Region

SEATTLE, Dec. 17, 2010 – Two of the most advanced tools for precise, radiotherapy-based treatment are now under one roof in Seattle. Swedish Medical Center this month became the first facility in the Pacific Northwest – and one of only a handful in North America – to open a unit that incorporates both CyberKnife® and Gamma Knife technologies. The 3,950-square-foot Swedish Radiosurgery Center, formerly known as the Seattle CyberKnife Center, is located on the A Level of the James Tower on the Cherry Hill Campus at 500-17th Ave.

The Center this fall installed the latest model Leksell Gamma Knife, made by Elekta. It complements the Accuray CyberKnife, which has been operational for five years and been used on nearly 1,000 patients. The neurologists, neurosurgeons, neuro-oncologists and neuroradiologists of the Swedish Neuroscience Institute have joined forces with the radiation and medical oncologists of the Swedish Cancer Institute to provide a broad range of experience and expertise matched at few centers in the world.

“Having both Gamma Knife and CyberKnife at a single facility allows surgeons, radiation oncologists and physicists to select the very best treatment modality for every patient,” said Marc Mayberg, M.D., co-director of the Swedish Neuroscience Institute. “Frequently, minimally invasive surgical procedures can be combined with radiosurgery to provide highly effective therapies that are associated with minimal risk and minimal disruption to the patient’s life and work.”

“The Radiosurgery Center is another example in a long history of innovation by radiation oncologists here,” said Vivek Mehta, M.D., a radiation oncologist with Swedish Cancer Institute. “By arming physicians with state-of-the-art technologies and putting them under one umbrella, patients can be assured they’ll be treated with the best equipment by clinicians with special expertise.”

Gamma Knife

Gamma Knife surgery, a form of stereotactic radiosurgery, is a non-invasive method for treating brain disorders. It involves the delivery of a single, high dose of radiation to an intracranial target in the skull to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. The Gamma Knife’s extreme precision makes it possible to administer a high radiation dose to the diseased area, minimizing the risk of damaging adjacent healthy tissue.

“The key to the success of the Gamma Knife is its ability to accurately focus many beams of high-intensity gamma radiation to converge on one or more tumors,” said Neurosurgeon Ronald Young, M.D., medical director of Gamma Knife at the Swedish Radiosurgery Center. “Each individual beam is relatively low energy, so the radiation has virtually no affect on healthy brain tissue.”

The technology is used for a variety of neurological disorders – including blood vessel abnormalities in the brain (arteriovenous malformations), benign brain tumors (acoustic neuromas, meningiomas, pituitary tumors), canderous brain tumors (glioma, brain metastases) and painful conditions such as trigeminal neuralgia. Dr. Young also expects to use the Gamma Knife to treat essential tremor. Research is being conducted on other possible uses such as treating in epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and melanoma of the eye.

Gamma Knife surgery avoids surgically opening the skull, which has obvious advantages for the patient’s quality of life, treatment cost, clinical outcomes and reduction of complications. The Gamma Knife procedure is completed in a matter of hours and patients generally go home within a few hours, resuming normal activities within a few days. Side effects of treatment are usually minimal. Some patients experience a mild headache, but there is no loss of hair or nausea, as with some cancer treatments. The procedure is covered by most insurance plans.

“There is a tremendous advantage to having both systems here so physicians can choose exactly the right tool for a delicate task,” said Dr. Young.

The Gamma Knife is uniquely well suited to treat tumors that have metastasized to the brain from the lung, breast, etc. It is particularly effective on tumors smaller than 3.5 cm in diameter, and with patients who have multiple lesions. The system is highly flexible and, if need be, the treating physicians are often able to treat numerous tumors in the brain in one setting. Research studies on the Gamma Knife have shown that local control – meaning the specific tumor treated does not come back – exceeds an average of 85 percent for the management of tumors in any brain location.

Because it is noninvasive, Gamma Knife surgery can be used to treat metastases in surgically inaccessible areas of the brain, such as the brainstem. And there is one other significant advantage to hyper-targeted radiosurgery. Traditional medical wisdom dictates that once a patient has had radiation therapy, she or he cannot have it again. But apparently that’s not true in smaller volumes, as oncologists can now fine-tune a treatment plan.


CyberKnife, like Gamma Knife, is a stereotactic technology, which in addition to the brain can treat tumors in other parts of the body including the spine, lung, prostate, liver and pancreas. It, too, is incredibly precise and can track moving targets accurately within 1 to 2 millimeters. Plus, it has built-in motion correction capability in case a patient moves during treatment.

Radiation oncologist Sandra Vermeulen, M.D., last year began using the CyberKnife for treatment of women with early-stage breast cancer whose sentinel nodes are clear. “Some traditional radiation treatments deliver dose to adjacent normal tissue in order to cover the cancer risk area. This added volume of normal tissue can sometime result in unpleasant side effects.

With CyberKnife, the normal tissue can be better excluded from the high-dose regions, resulting in fewer side effects.”

For More Information

Radiosurgery Center

About Swedish

Swedish has grown over the last 100 years to become the largest, most comprehensive non-profit health provider in the Greater Seattle area with 8,500 employees, 3,000-physicians and 1,200-volunteers. It is comprised of four hospital campuses (First Hill, Cherry Hill, Ballard and Edmonds); emergency departments and ambulatory care centers in Issaquah, Redmond and soon Mill Creek; Swedish Visiting Nurse Services; and Swedish Medical Group – a network of more than 40 primary-care and specialty clinics located throughout the Puget Sound area. Swedish recently opened a new emergency department and medical office building (MOB) on its Ballard campus and will open a new MOB and hospital in the Issaquah Highlands in the summer of 2011. In addition to general medical and surgical care, Swedish is known as a regional referral center, providing specialized treatment in areas such as cardiovascular care, cancer care, neuroscience, orthopedics, high-risk obstetrics, pediatric specialties, organ transplantation and clinical research. For more information, visit www.swedish.org, www.twitter.com/swedish or www.facebook.com/swedish#!/swedishmedicalcenter.

About Swedish Neuroscience Institute

In 2004, Swedish expanded its neuroscience services by establishing the Swedish Neuroscience Institute. The team of leading neurosurgeons and other specialists are building a world-class institute dedicated solely to the treatment and advancement of neurological disorders for patients in the Pacific Northwest and around the world. Swedish/Cherry Hill has been designated as the hub for the Institute and has been upgraded with four state-of-the-art operating rooms featuring intra-operative MRI, CT scanning and neuro-interventional radiology capabilities; a renovated neuro intensive-care unit; and the new Swedish Radiosurgery Center, which features two of the most advanced tools for precise, radiotherapy-based treatment – CyberKnife and Gamma Knife – under one roof. SNI specializes in the research for and treatment of stroke; cerebral aneurysms and arteriovenous malformations; movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and tremors; brain tumors (including both malignant tumors and benign tumors such as meningiomas); neuro-endocrine disorders including pituitary tumors; epilepsy; child neurological disorders; neuro-ophthalmology; headaches; multiple sclerosis and many other neurological conditions and diseases. In each category, physicians from different specialties are brought together to provide a multi-disciplinary approach centered on providing top-notch patient care. For more information, visit www.swedish.org/neuroscience.

About the Swedish Cancer Institute

The Swedish Cancer Institute (SCI) opened in 1932 as the first dedicated cancer-care center west of the Mississippi. It is the largest and most comprehensive cancer treatment program in the Pacific Northwest, caring for more people with more types of cancer than any other provider in the region. The Institute has a presence on all four of Swedish’s hospital campuses – First Hill, Cherry Hill, Ballard and Edmonds – as well as in East King County and at Highline Medical Center in Burien. A true multidisciplinary institute, SCI offers a wide range of advanced cancer-treatment options in chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery – backed by extensive diagnostic capabilities, patient education and support-group services. For more information, visit www.swedish.org/cancer.


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