Cutting-edge cancer treatment True Beam comes to Savannah

The TrueBeam — the latest, most powerful and most expensive cancer treatment technology in the world — had its Savannah debut March 7, when physicians and other medical professionals were invited to come out and see the $7 million device at Memorial University Medical Center.

Actually, the real debut came two weeks before the party, when the first treatment was administered using the sleek, new tool at Memorial’s Curtis and Elizabeth Anderson Cancer (ACI).

The radiation oncologists who work with the device, John R. Duttenhaver, M.D. — interim head of the ACI — and Aaron W. Pederson, M.D., were beaming with almost paternal pride over the new machine at its formal introduction, despite the fact they’d been coming in at 5:30 a.m. daily since it was up and running.

“It’s one of those moments that defines where we are in the 21st century,” Duttenhaver said.

The complex marriage of computerized 3-D imaging and high-intensity radiation beams enables sub-millimeter accuracy in targeting tumors, shaping the beam to match the contours of the tumor and thereby sparing surrounding healthy tissue. Because of the accuracy, higher doses of radiation can be administered in a shorter treatment, as little as five minutes, and treatment schedules themselves can sometimes be shortened by weeks.

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