The Cancer Institute offers several groundbreaking, unique treatment options for pancreatic cancer. Many of them were pioneered right here. Highlights include:
- NanoKnife®* irreversible electroporation (IRE): This innovative and minimally invasive surgical procedure delivers pulses of electrical current into cancer cells, creating pores in their membranes that lead to their destruction. The procedure does not affect the surrounding healthy tissues. The Cancer Institute is the only health network in the Pittsburgh region to offer this surgery.
- Whipple procedure: This surgery is also known as a pancreaticoduodenectomy. A surgeon removes the head of the pancreas, the gallbladder, the uppermost part of the small intestine, a small part of the stomach, and nearby lymph nodes. Then we reconnect the pancreas to the remaining digestive organs so that stomach contents flow right into the small intestine. This method allows you to have normal digestion after the procedure.
- Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT): Sophisticated computer technology maps the precise shape and density of cancerous tumors. We mold the radiation beam to match the shape of the tumor exactly. This process allows us to use a high dose of radiation to destroy the cancer cells without harming surrounding healthy tissue.
- Stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT): This precise technique delivers high doses of radiation in fewer than five treatments. This technique was pioneered at the Cancer Institute and has dramatically improved our ability to control tumors.
- Clinical trials: We offer a thriving clinical trials program, keeping you at the forefront of the latest treatment options as they develop.
- MR-Linac: Radiation treatments are already delivered with pinpoint accuracy, but the new MR-Linac takes precision to the next level. We are the only cancer center in the region and one of only six in the United States that will be testing this new innovative technology. The MR-Linac combines a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine with the radiation delivery machine – known as a linear accelerator – into one treatment device. The MRI provides high-quality images of a tumor in real-time, and then the linear accelerator emits radiation beams to the exact location of the cancer.
Inhaling and exhaling causes organs, tissues, and the actual tumor to move. This technology – which will be in research phase in 2021 at the AHN Cancer Institute at Allegheny General Hospital – allows us to see images of a patient’s body as breaths are taken, so we can directly target the tumor with radiation. If a tumor moves out of the determined radiation area as a patient inhales the radiation automatically turns off. When the patient exhales and the tumor returns to its original position the high-energy beams resume.
This type of delivery limits healthy tissue and organs from being radiated while providing a powerful dose of radiation to the cancer.