School of Medicine

Radiation Oncology Medical Physics

Research

The Division of Medical Physics is focused on performing research that improves and advances the delivery of high quality radiation treatments. One specific area of interest includes research into ways for improving the targeting, or image guidance, for radiation treatments. With significant recent advances in the ability to accurately deliver radiation treatment within the human body  (such as intensity modulated radiation therapy—IMRT), focus has now shifted to finding ways to locate, or place, our precisely shaped dose distributions more accurately. The newly evolving field of image guided radiation therapy (IGRT) achieves this by using sophisticated imaging equipment that is installed in the radiation treatment room, adjacent to the linear accelerator treatment machine. Because tumors can move from 1–30 millimeters from one day to the next, it is often important to determine the position of the tumor right before daily treatment is delivered.

State-of-the-Art Equipment

The Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Institute is extremely fortunate to be equipped with multiple, state-of-the-art image guidance modalities that include: BrainLab ExacTrac stereo-planar imaging (which allows for frameless stereotactic radiosurgery treatment of brain tumors), ultrasound-based image guidance (for prostate, liver, pancreas), Calypso body GPS (for prostate), kV cone beam CT imaging (all treatment sites), MV cone beam CT imaging (all treatment sites), CT on Rails-CTOR (all treatment sites), AlignRT body surface imaging (numerous treatment sites), and 4D CT imaging (for characterizing the motion of tumors that move during treatment because of breathing).

Partnerships Leading to Cutting-Edge Research

Besides supervising the use of these sophisticated image guidance modalities for daily treatment of our patients, our medical physicist team focuses on research to both characterize the accuracy of these image guidance processes and to evolve new and improved ways of performing image guidance. This interest, and associated level of expertise, has led to research and development partnerships between our department and several leading vendors of radiation oncology equipment such as Varian Medical Systems, Siemens Medical, and Elekta Medical, to name a few.

Our PhD medical physicists have contributed to research and development of several recent and important innovations in radiation treatment delivery and image guidance, such as the first ever clinical treatments utilizing Elekta Clarity transperineal ultrasound imaging of prostate. This innovative image guidance approach was recently utilized in our clinic as the first ever ultrasound image guided approach for monitoring the position of the prostate gland during radiation treatment delivery. Another first treatment delivery approach was recently performed at the Huntsman Cancer Hospital when we delivered the first Hybrid Modulated Arc Treatment-HMAT using a Siemens Artiste linear accelerator for extremely high dose rate (2,000 mu/minute) Burst Mode treatment. This innovative new treatment approach allows for extremely fast and accurate treatment of virtually any tumor location.

As you review the publications of our team of PhD medical physicists you will find numerous research papers in highly regarded peer-reviewed medical journals related to these cutting edge topics, along with numerous other image guidance and conformal delivery approach research publications. The purpose of all of our medical physics research endeavors is to constantly improve the processes by which we use radiation to treat cancer.