Treating brain tumors with brachytherapy

Delivers high radiation doses to tumors while sparing surrounding healthy tissue

Brachytherapy is a form of radiation therapy which places radioactive seeds directly into or around brain tumors, allowing very high radiation doses to the tumor while sparing the surrounding healthy tissue.

How it works

To begin the treatment, thin catheters are first placed in the tumor. The catheters are then connected to a high-dose rate machine that holds a single, highly radioactive seed at the end of a wire. The seed is pushed into each of the catheters one by one under control of a computer.

Once placed, the radioactive seeds attack the brain tumor with a first dose of radiation within the first 15 minutes of implantation. Within 45 minutes, the second dose is released to prevent the cancer cells from spreading and the tumor from growing back.

According to Michael Salacz, MD, neuro-oncologist at The University of Kansas Hospital, brachytherapy has helped set a path for the future of cancer treatment.

“Placing radioactive seeds at the edge of the surgical cavity after removing the brain tumor has several advantages. First, there is a very low rate of recurrent enhancement reported, and second, the patient doesn’t have to subsequently go through additional radiation treatment and can proceed more quickly with additional systemic chemotherapy as needed. While this approach isn’t right for everyone, I anticipate that as we get better at treating cancer, even cancer that has spread widely, there will be more need for treatments that can maximize control over brain tumors while minimizing short- and long-term problems, including tumor recurrence and maintaining cognitive function,” Dr. Salacz explains.

Brachytherapy at The University of Kansas Cancer Center

Brachytherapy is a true example of academic medicine at its best. Neurosurgeons, neuro-oncologists, radiation oncologists and medical physicists collaborate to deliver this innovative treatment. The seeds are created individually and customized for each patient to preserve effectiveness and ensure the physician-prescribed dosage of radiation is present within the seeds.