A policeman is the first to have a new radiotherapy technology

A 59-year-old police officer with prostate cancer was treated with Elekta Unity’s MR-Linac, a breakthrough innovation that simultaneously generates magnetic resonance images and delivers radiation directly to tumors.

Andrew “AC” Jones has long been a leader with a passion for service to others.

As an officer with the Pittsburgh Police Department for the past 27 years, AC has dedicated his career to building relationships and building trust in the community. He spent much of his career as a North Side patroller, getting to know residents to help make neighborhoods safer.

So when AC was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year, true to form, he volunteered to be the first patient treated with new radiation therapy technology at the AHN Cancer Institute.

“I said, ‘Sign me up.’ Anyway, and maybe it will help other people later.

Last June, the 59-year-old was treated with Elekta Unity’s MR-Linac. It is a breakthrough innovation that simultaneously generates magnetic resonance images (MRI) and directly irradiates tumors. The AHN Cancer Institute is one of the few institutions in the country and the first in Pennsylvania to have the MR-Linac.

“We can see the tumor in real time as a patient moves and breathes, and we can tailor the radiation dose during treatment,” said Russell Fuhrer, MD, system director for AHN Radiation Oncology. “Then every time a patient comes in for treatment, we start with all new MRIs for the most accurate radiation delivery.”

Now the cancer can’t hide

Unity MR-Linac is a hybrid technology that integrates an MRI scanner with a linear accelerator. It gives oncologists and physicists a sharp, well-defined view of a tumor’s shape, size, and position, so they can target cancer with pinpoint precision.

“This technology allows us to treat cancer so precisely for each patient,” Dr. Fuhrer said. “We’ve never had such precision before in radiation oncology, so it’s very exciting that patients may eventually experience fewer treatments, minimal side effects and better outcomes.”

“We have never had such precision before in radiation oncology.” — Dr. Russel Führer

AC only had five treatments over 10 days. He was tired after the first treatment and did not go to the Pittsburgh City Warrant Officers Office that day. But he bounced back and was ready to go after the next four treatments.

“I do what I have to do and I continue to live. All the staff at Allegheny kept me upbeat and positive, and they’ve been so good to me,” AC said. “Dr. Fuhrer and all have been a godsend.

Dr Fuhrer said it was too early to say if AC was cancer-free, but added that the goal was to cure him without surgery.

“Men with prostate cancer usually have several treatment options,” Dr. Fuhrer explained. “Improved accuracy and reduced number of radiotherapy visits with the Unity MR-Linac makes it a good option for more men.”

AC praised his three adult daughters, Meagan, Monica and Paige, siblings, friends and co-workers for supporting him and keeping him optimistic through his battle with cancer.

“The day I rang the bell there, I got very emotional. It really is a blessing, and having all these people supporting you is something else.

International cooperation

The AHN Cancer Institute is part of an international research consortium to determine how MR-Linac could be used to improve patient survival and quality of life. The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center are two other US facilities involved.

Patients with prostate, liver, pancreas and metastatic tumors are candidates for Unity treatment. AHN physicians will also study treatment for head and neck, lung, breast, and gastrointestinal cancers.

“It may also be an effective option for recurrent or previously treated tumors that we cannot treat with standard therapies,” said Tom Colonias, MD, AHN director of thoracic malignancies in radiation oncology. “We will study the best way to use the MR-Linac for these difficult cases.”

“It may also be an effective option for recurrent or previously treated tumors that we cannot treat with standard therapies.” — Dr. Tom Colonias

Contact Dr. Fuhrer at 412-953-3337 or [email protected], and Dr. Colonias at 412-580-5990 or [email protected]

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