The College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences recently celebrated the acquisition and commissioning of its new Varian Trilogy Linear Accelerator, the first of its kind in any animal clinic or veterinary teaching college in the world.
The accelerator enables clinicians to deliver tailored, precision radiation to tumors with a sophistication that is unequaled by any other machine available. The accelerator's ability to deliver radiation with such exactness drastically reduces the impact of radiation on healthy cells surrounding a tumor.
"This new accelerator will enhance the Veterinary Teaching Hospital's ability to provide state-of-the-art treatment to animals suffering from cancer," said Dr. Lance Perryman, Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. "In addition, the accelerator increases our experts' abilities to conduct research on fighting cancer that will benefit humans and animals."
The linear accelerator has the capacity to target tumors with a radiation beam that is tailored specifically to the depth, shape and size of a tumor minimizing damage to healthy cells. Specifically, a radiation dose can be fitted to the abnormal shape of a tumor and delivered at a specific depth to avoid hitting important surrounding structures such as the spinal cord, kidneys or heart. The beam of radiation can be sculpted because of a sophisticated "multileaf collimator," which has 120 moving parts, each driven by an individual motor. Each part can be manipulated, and together the leaves form into hundreds of different positions to uniquely shape a beam for each tumor.
The machine also is unique because it has three radiation beams with distinct characteristics, hence the name Trilogy. One beam is especially designed to administer radiosurgery, a technique where radiation can be delivered with fewer fractions than traditional radiation therapy. Radiosurgery is a new field, and veterinary cancer patients provide an ideal model to evaluate this new technology that can benefit both animal and human cancer patients. It is a particularly successful method of treatment for canine bone and brain tumors.
In addition, the machine has an on-board CT scanner and digital X-ray machine, allowing doctors to monitor the changing shape and depth of a tumor with each treatment.
Finally, the accelerator can be programmed via a respiratory monitoring system to deliver radiation at only specific stages of the breathing cycle to ensure precision delivery if the tumor moves slightly as the patient breathes (such as a tumor in the chest cavity). The system enables medical staff to deliver treatments more precisely by tracking and adjusting for tumor movements caused by breathing.
Funding for the system was provided by the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, the Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences, Colorado State's Academic Enrichment Program, the Animal Cancer Center and the Colorado State University Research Foundation.