Tuesday, January 29, 2002

New anti-cancer tool promising, UC doctors report

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Doctors with the University of Cincinnati's Neuroscience Institute are reporting success using a sophisticated form of radiation therapy to treat a rare type of spinal tumor.

        Eugene Conrad was diagnosed in November 2000 with a kiwi-sized cancer tu mor called a chordoma that had intertwined itself in and between the third and fourth vertebrae in his neck.

        Last week doctors announced that Mr. Conrad, 55, of the Dayton, Ohio, area and director of the Dayton International Airport, remains cancer-free nearly a year after completing surgery and 70 radiation treat ments.

        The ability to zap the oddly shaped tumor without harming Mr. Conrad's spinal cord was possible because, in 1999, the Neuroscience Institute became the first hospital in North America to install a computer-guided, LEXAR radio-surgery system.

        The $1.5 million system, made by Radionics Inc. and Siemens Medical Systems Inc., can be programmed to aim radiation beams and adjust the intensity of the dose more accurately than before.

        The operation was performed by neurosurgeon Dr. Harry Van Loveren. The follow-up treatment was led by Dr. John Breneman, a radiation oncologist.

        About 300 cases of spinal chordoma are diagnosed a year nationwide.

        In previous cases, where parts of tumors were impossible to remove or safely treat with radiation, the odds of the cancer growing back within a few years were as high as 50 percent.

        Less accurately aimed radiation also could have dam aged Mr. Conrad's speech or ability to walk.

        Only time will tell whether Mr. Conrad's cancer will return, but his odds have significantly improved, the doctors said.

        “We'll see how it works out,” Mr. Conrad said. “... I feel great and I have a lot of confidence.”


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