“By treating the tumor from the inside out, we can rapidly deliver higher doses of radiation to the tumor, with relatively few side effects,” explains UCLA radiation oncologist and chief of the Division of Brachytherapy D. Jeffrey Demanes, MD, a pioneer of high-dose-rate (HDR) brachytherapy. HDR brachytherapy has been used successfully to treat prostate, breast, head and neck, gynecologic, gastrointestinal, skin, soft tissue sarcomas and many other types of cancer. “In some cases, it is used as the only treatment, and in other cases, this precision radiation therapy is combined with surgery, external-beam radiation therapy or chemotherapy, depending upon the type and extent of the cancer and needs of the individual patient,” Dr. Demanes says.
HDR brachytherapy uses a computerized robotic-delivery device to temporarily insert a tiny radiation source into a tumor. It is performed by inserting thin, straw-like applicators about the size of an intravenous line in or near the treatment site.