BOSTON – Frank Cleary thought he just had a bad bout of pneumonia. But a chest X-ray revealed a far more serious diagnosis – melanoma. A subsequent MRI revealed further devastating news – a brain tumor. That is when Cleary and his wife Jean decided to come to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, becoming the 1,000th patient to be treated at the Keith C. Field CyberKnife Center.
Hailed as a revolutionary treatment, the CyberKnife uses concentrated beams of radiation administered from different targeting positions and angles using a linear accelerator mounted on a robotic manipulator. All of the beams intersect and converge within the tumor or lesion where the cumulative radiation dose is high enough to destroy the cancer cells and stop the growth of active tissue.
«CyberKnife gives safe, accurate radiosurgery treatment anywhere in the body using image guidance, rather than a surgically applied rigid stereotactic frame,» said Cleary’s radiation oncologist Scott Floyd. «This allows for greater patient comfort, especially if multiple treatments are needed. The imaging guidance system lets patients avoid the surgical procedure of applying a radiosurgery frame for each treatment.»
During the entire treatment the location of the tumor is continuously monitored using X-rays and image-guided cameras. Cleary underwent his first CyberKnife treatment five months after the melanoma was detected in November 2007. BIDMC was the first hospital in New England to offer the CyberKnife, with the first patient treated at the Keith C. Field CyberKnife Center on July 14, 2005.
«It takes about an hour and a half,» Cleary said of the procedure. «I listen to music and doze off.»
He was tumor free for a year, but a small cluster of cells were detected again in his brain at the end of 2008. In December, Cleary opted for a second round with the CyberKnife and he will embark on another one soon.
«I feel fine and I am lucky that I can do all of the things I used to do. I walk, cook, read and even visited my son in California,» Cleary, 76, said.
The couple have been together 51 years. They couple have four adult children – three sons and one daughter.
Although the CyberKnife has extended Cleary’s life, it does not prevent future brain metastases from forming in areas that are not treated, Floyd said.
«We’re not sad. We’re not mad. We accept what is going to happen and live each day,» Jean Cleary, also 76, said.
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a patient care, teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School, and consistently ranks among the top four in National Institutes of Health funding among independent hospitals nationwide. BIDMC is clinically affiliated with the Joslin Diabetes Center and is a research partner of Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. BIDMC is the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox. For more information, visit www.bidmc.org .