OHSU to Study New Radiation Technology for Head, Neck Cancer

04/27/09  Portland, Ore.

ASCO Young Investigator Awardee at OHSU Knight Cancer Institute will lead research team

The Oregon Health & Science University Knight Cancer Institute will evaluate whether the state-of-the-art image-guidance system called Calypso® (Calypso® Medical, Seattle, Wash.) is as effective in delivering highly precise radiation therapy to head and neck cancer patients as it has been in those with prostate cancer.

“We have been extremely happy with the system’s performance for prostate cancer, and it is our hope to apply this system to multiple new body sites in the future. This study represents a real first step in that direction,” said Patrick Gagnon, M.D., principal investigator and co-chief resident in the Department of Radiation Medicine, OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, OHSU School of Medicine.

The Calypso® system relies on three electromagnetic transponders, or beacons, about the size of a grain of rice that are implanted in the prostate prior to beginning treatments. These transponders utilize electromagnetic fields that can be detected with sub-millimeter precision for accurate daily targeting of the prostate gland. Continuous monitoring of the patient and prostate motion is also possible, which allows for greater accuracy in delivering radiation therapy and limits exposure to surrounding healthy tissue.

In this new Phase II clinical trial, the beacons will be implanted into a customized mouth guard fitted to the participant’s upper teeth/jaw. With the mouth guard in place, the research team will test whether daily patient positioning can be improved using this system. They will be able to monitor the participant’s movement in real time throughout the seven-week course of treatment. This has proved difficult in the past without exposing the patient to additional radiation.

“The Calypso system is unique in allowing the treatment team to continuously monitor the patient’s position as the procedure is under way. Unlike other technologies, it doesn’t require additional radiation exposure to provide the movement and localization feedback we need,” explained Gagnon.

This new research is funded in part through a grant from The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Cancer Foundation, which recently awarded Gagnon its highly coveted 2009 Young Investigator Award for his groundbreaking work in this area.

“Only about 30 of these awards are given nationally each year, and only two to four go to radiation oncology junior faculty/trainees. We are proud of Dr. Gagnon’s achievement and are excited to be able to offer this leading-edge technology to another group of cancer patients,” said Charles Thomas, M.D., chairman of the Department of Radiation Medicine, OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, OHSU School of Medicine.

Gagnon will partner with Thomas and John Holland, M.D., associate professor, Department of Radiation Medicine, OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, OHSU School of Medicine, in conducting this research.

This work is supported by The ASCO Cancer Foundation Award. Any opinions, findings, conclusions expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the American Society of Clinical Oncology or The ASCO Cancer Foundation.

About the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute

The OHSU Knight Cancer Institute is the only National Cancer Institute-designated center between Sacramento and Seattle. It comprises some 200 clinical researchers, basic scientists and population scientists who work together to translate scientific discoveries into longer and better lives for Oregon's cancer patients. In the lab, basic scientists examine cancer cells and normal cells to uncover molecular abnormalities that cause the disease. This basic science informs more than 300 clinical trials conducted at the OHSU Cancer Institute.

About OHSU

Oregon Health & Science University is the state’s only health and research university and Oregon’s only academic health center. OHSU is Portland's largest employer and the fourth largest in Oregon (excluding government). OHSU's size contributes to its ability to provide many services and community support activities not found anywhere else in the state. It serves patients from every corner of the state, and is a conduit for learning for more than 3,400 students and trainees. OHSU is the source of more than 200 community outreach programs that bring health and education services to every county in the state.