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Exceptional Cancer Care

Northwestern Ontario residents continue to have access to Exceptional Cancer Care


by Scott A. Sumner

As part of an ongoing evolution in offering world class technology for Northwestern Ontario cancer patients, Regional Cancer Care Northwest (RCC NW) has recently installed one of the world’s most advanced Linear Accelerators (LINAC) – the Elekta Infinity. This complex project, underway for months, is now complete and the first patients are being treated on the Infinity LINAC. Radiation Therapy staff are fully trained on the new machine and are developing unique, customized treatment plans for patients. The advanced Elekta Infinity system incorporates image-guided workflow into a comprehensive treatment system. The new Infinity LINAC allows radiation treatments to be delivered more efficiently, contributing to fewer side effects, less time for patients on the LINAC treatment bed, and potentially, improved patient outcomes.   “We’re proud to partner with one of Ontario’s preeminent cancer centers,” says Michael Power, Vice President and Managing Partner, Elekta Canada. “Elekta Infinity represents the pinnacle of radiotherapy’s technological sophistication, and in the hands of physicians at Regional Cancer Care Northwest, patients will be receiving very safe, accurate and clinically effective therapy.”   The Infinity LINAC fully integrates with RCC NW’s new MOSAIQ Electronic Medical Record system scheduled to be implemented in May of this year. This will streamline clinical workflow and, because treatment planning information is downloaded to the LINAC without manual transcription and the chance of human error, the new system will make radiation therapy treatment safer.   The Infinity LINAC has on-board cone beam imaging that allows a CT scan to be taken in less than one minute while a patient is in treatment position immediately prior to radiation delivery.   “On-board cone beam imaging allows us to advance our techniques in the future,” says Dr. Sunil Gulavita, Head and Coordinator of Radiation Oncology at TBRHSC. “With daily imaging capability, we can target the tumour and spare normal tissue to ensure we are radiating the correct anatomy. Eventually, we will develop new treatment techniques to take advantage of the Infinity LINAC’s precision by decreasing the number of daily fractions and increasing the daily dose. Fewer fractions mean fewer visits for patients to the Cancer Centre.”   “These treatment improvements are wonderful and it’s reassuring to know that our Regional Cancer Centre is always at the forefront of technical innovations,” says former radiation therapy patient and local businessman Shawn Christie. “But putting technology aside, I can’t emphasize enough how much it eases the cancer journey when patients are supported by Radiation Therapy staff who deliver expert care with compassion and commitment.”   The Infinity LINAC project (including both machines) is an eight million dollar endeavour largely funded by Cancer Care Ontario – the Ontario government agency that directs and oversees high quality, timely cancer services and improved access to care for all Ontarians.   “Replacing aging radiation treatment equipment is a critical component of ensuring timely access to high-quality cancer care as close to home as possible,” says Michael Sherar, President and CEO, Cancer Care Ontario. “The installation of this new LINAC is just one example of Cancer Care Ontario’s partnership with the North West Regional Cancer Program to ensure patients and families in Thunder Bay and the surrounding communities have access to a safe, sustainable, efficient and effective cancer system.   Residents of Northwestern Ontario have a long history of supporting the Northern Cancer Fund (formerly the Northern Cancer Research Foundation) to bring leading-edge care close-to-home. Today, that tradition continues as the community has, once again, committed to support the investment in these new LINACs, that will ensure our friends, family, and neighbours have the very best opportunity to survive cancer.

  “We are delighted to be here today at the unveiling of the first new LINAC,” says David Knutson, Chair, Board of Directors, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation.  “Donors to the Northern Cancer Fund have given generously to the cancer program and are continuing to do so, knowing how much of an impact their donations have on cancer care here in Northwestern Ontario. We are all touched by cancer, but luckily, cancer’s new normal is that it is now a chronic condition. With early detection, advanced treatments, and exceptional cancer care, more people will survive their disease. Donations to the Northern Cancer Fund are an essential component to ongoing, advanced care, close-to-home and I thank our donors who have truly made this possible.”   The first new LINAC marks the beginning of fulfilling RCC NW’s Exceptional Cancer Care plan promise to replace its two existing linear accelerators by 2015. A second Infinity LINAC is scheduled to be installed, commissioned, and treating patients by fall of 2013.   Regional Cancer Care Northwest (RCC-NW) works to ensure that all patients receive equitable access to quality cancer care by offering world-class services in cancer prevention, early detection, diagnosis, treatment, and supportive/palliative care to the 235,000 residents of Northwestern Ontario. We are one of 14 Regional Cancer Programs in the province, operating in partnership with Cancer Care Ontario and TBRHSC. Regional Cancer Northwest has 13 affiliated sites across the region, including community hospitals and health access centers. www.tbrhsc.net/cancercare Michael Sherar, President & Chief Executive Officer Cancer Care Ontario “ It is a significant investment in renewing two linear accelerators; one is already installed to make sure we have the highest quality radiation therapy available for patients in Thunder Bay and region. The technology has advanced to allow more precision radiation therapy to be delivered which is better for patient care. The machines are also more efficient in treating patients with shorter time. These are state of the art machines being installed across the province. They represent the highest quality of care that can be delivered. We  see the Northwest region near the top in Ontario.”

Shawn Christie, cancer survivor

“ I was diagnosed with cancer in September 2011. They found three tumours in my neck. I had my tonsils removed and within a few weeks after that  had a feeding tube put in my stomach. Following that there were 35 radiation treatments and 3 chemo treatments over a 7 week period which took me to Christmas with a 4 week down time after that until February 2012. I lost 50 pounds.”   “ The people who are going to start treatment now are so lucky to have this. My sessions were 35 to 45 minutes each Monday to Friday so to be able to cut that time in half will help so much.” “ My health now is great. My tumours have shrunk from September to December, which is optimistic. As a survivor we go day by day, keep a positive attitude and look for support. The support systems that are here in Thunder Bay at the Cancer Centre are world class. People need to take advantage of this and have while they are going through treatment.” “ I have three children so just felt I needed to stay strong, focused and positive for my kids, family and all the people out there that I love. I want to touch as many people as I can because I had so much support myself and want to pay that forward. There is hope and more people are living with cancer today.” 

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