FDA Approves GammaPod for Breast Cancer Treatment

By Mia Garchitorena
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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recently approved a new breast cancer treatment machine that uses gamma rays to target tumors without harming healthy tissue.

The “GammaPod” (Xcision Medical Systems, LLC), named for its pod-like shape and use of gamma rays, was developed at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMSOM) to treat patients with early-stage breast cancer.

“Patients will have access to a treatment option that provides greater accuracy in delivering radiation therapy to breast tumors while saving surrounding tissue,” Robert Ochs, PhD, acting deputy director for radiological health in the Office of In Vitro Diagnostics and Radiological Health in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in a press release.

GammaPod. (Source: Technical.ly)

The GammaPod uses thousands of radiation beams and a double-layered vacuum-assisted cup that immobilizes the breast in order to achieve an accurate delivery of radiation, the FDA website said. Patients are treated by lying on their stomachs while the vacuum-assisted cup moves in a circular motion and delivers radiation to the tumor.

Researchers also claim that the machine could spare the need for surgery as the machine delivers sterotactic radiotherapy to a portion of a patient’s breast and “reduces the length of treatment from many weeks to several days,” according to the company website.

“We envision that one day we’ll be able to neutralize a tumor with a high dose of focused radiation instead of removing it with a scalpel,” said Cedric X. Yu, DSc, clinical professor of radiation oncology at UMSOM and chief executive officer of Xcision Medical Systems, LLC. “This approach would spare patients the negative side effects of surgery and prolonged radiation treatments, significantly improving their quality of life.”

The FDA warns, however, that the GammaPod has not yet been shown to be as effective as whole breast radiation therapy (WBRT) and states that the machine should not replace WBRT.

Researchers will continue to investigate ways to use the GammaPod before and after surgery, analyze its effectiveness in reducing tumor size, and identify subgroups of patients who may not require surgery after treatment, according to a press release from the University of Maryland.