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Hoag Family Cancer Institute Is First and Only in Orange County to Offer Groundbreaking Radiation Technology

Thanks to a $9 million gift from best-selling author Dean Koontz and his wife Gerda, Hoag recently became the first hospital in Orange County and the second in California to acquire the most advanced radiation treatment system available in the United States. The ViewRay MRldian® linear accelerator system adds greater precision to radiation treatment by combining a diagnostic quality MRI scanner with a radiation linear accelerator. This revolutionary technology allows oncologists to pinpoint tumors during radiation treatment–even in some of the most difficult-to-target areas in the body, including the pancreas, lungs and other soft tissue tumors. Not only does the advanced treatment improve outcomes and decrease side effects from radiation therapy, it provides options for patients with tumors who were not previously candidates for radiation therapy.

In recognition of the Koontz’s generosity, Hoag named the Dean & Gerda Koontz Radiation Oncology Center at Hoag Family Cancer Institute.

“The addition of the MRldian® linear accelerator is yet another example of how Hoag is committed to delivering the most advanced, most effective cancer care to our community,” said Burton L. Eisenberg, M.D., Grace E. Hoag Executive Medical Director Endowed Chair, Hoag Family Cancer Institute. “Through the generosity from people like Dean and Gerda Koontz and visionary leadership from Hoag’s world-renowned oncology physician team, Hoag continues to be at the forefront of technology and cancer therapy.”

Already, doctors and patients are realizing the benefits of the ViewRay MRIdian® linear accelerator next-generation technology, which is especially beneficial when treating tumors that are mobile or adjacent to structures that are mobile.

“Our bodies are constantly in motion,” said Craig Cox, M.D., medical director of Hoag Radiation Oncology. “Our lungs move as we breathe, our diaphragms contract and relax and any tumor or adjacent organ will shift accordingly.” One of the fundamental challenges in radiation oncology is how to hit a moving target, even when the patient is lying still. “With real-time MRI-guided therapy, we now can treat with exact precision. We can see the target, we can see the critical normal tissue we want to avoid and react appropriately,” Dr. Cox noted. For example, if a patient’s tumor were to shift due to breath or internal organ movement, the machine would stop the delivery of radiation and allow physicians to adjust their approach in real time.

“The adaptive planning and real-time tracking capabilities immediately make radiation therapy more precise, safer and more effective–we are able to change our radiation plan on the fly and react to the conditions of the day, or even the fraction of a minute,” said Peter Chen, M.D., Hoag radiation oncologist.

“This in and of itself is very exciting, but there are also intriguing possibilities for the future,” he added, noting that researchers are investigating how the MRI profile of a tumor changes over the course of treatment. “This data may allow us to better monitor or predict a patient’s outcome, with the ultimate goal of adapting a radiation plan based on the tumor’s MRI response, leading to a personalized dose plan, with no more and no less radiation than needed.”

Thanks to the Koontz family, MRI-guided radiation therapy is already shaping the future of cancer care at Hoag, and Dr. Cox said its role in better outcomes and improved quality of life make it a game changer. “At Hoag, we are fortunate to have the community support that allows us to be early adopters not just of the latest technology but of technology that is changing how we approach cancer care.”

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