A new look at an old technique
CyberKnife surgery has been in use since the 1990s, but changing public perception of the procedure remains a goal for David Bryant, a radiation oncologist with Via Christi Cancer Center.
“A lot of patients don’t even come see me because they think ‘surgery’ and don’t want that,” he said. “They should have named it something else a while ago, but now that’s what it’s called it’s hard to change.”
The process focuses photon particles into a single point using a robot, which can zap tumors with radiation while circling a patient’s body on the outside.
When Bryant started as a doctor in the early 2000s it was only used for brain surgery, but the procedure is now used for almost any cancer that is large enough to be seen.
In the case of pancreatic cancer patient Roger Ryder, CyberKnife was the best option because surgery wasn’t a viable option with a tumor wrapped around his arteries.
“They did the radiation and he was still inoperable,” Bryant said. “That’s when they typically send the patients to me. Pancreatic cancer is one of those where we’re still only seeing the patients who cannot go to surgery.”
One of the important distinctions with the CyberKnife is that patients cannot have a CT scan immediately because it will still show the tumor, Bryant said.
“The cancer doesn’t just disappear with the treatment,” he said. “You’ve damaged the DNA, and will still see the cancer at the end. When the cells try to divide, that’s when they die.”