Colorado State University Unveils Radiation Machine, a First-Of Its-Kind in Veterinary and Animal Clinics

Colorado State University today unveiled a cutting-edge instrument that delivers radiation to tumors in animals with unmatched precision. The machine, a Varian Trilogy Linear Accelerator, is the first of its kind in any animal clinic or veterinary teaching college in the world, and is only available for human treatment in a few limited locations in the United States.

     Colorado State University’s veterinary radiation oncology unit will unveil the accelerator, which enables the university to deliver tailored, precision radiation to tumors with a sophistication that is unequaled by any other machine available. The accelerator’s ability to deliver radiation with such exactness drastically reduces the impact of radiation on healthy cells surrounding a tumor.

     "This new accelerator will enable the Veterinary Teaching Hospital’s ability to provide state-of-the-art treatment to animals suffering from cancer," said Dr. Lance Perryman, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. "In addition, the accelerator enhances our experts’ ability to conduct research on fighting cancer that will benefit humans and animals."

     The linear accelerator has the ability to target tumors with a radiation that is tailored specifically to the depth, shape and size of a tumor without damaging healthy cells. Specifically, a radiation dose can be fitted to the abnormal shape of a tumor and delivered at a specific depth to prevent hitting important surrounding structures such as spinal cord, kidney or heart. The beam of radiation can be sculpted because of a sophisticated "multileaf collimator," which has 120 moving parts, each driven by an individual motor. Each part can be manipulated, and together the leaves form into hundreds of different positions to uniquely shape a beam for each tumor.

     The machine is also unique because it has three radiation beams with distinct characteristics, hence the name Trilogy. One beam is especially designed to administer radiosurgery, a technique where radiation can be delivered with fewer fractions than traditional radiation therapy. Radiosurgery is a new field, and veterinary cancer patients provide an ideal model to evaluate this new technology that can benefit both animal and human cancer patients. It is a particularly successful method of treatment for canine bone and brain tumors.

In addition, the machine has an on-board CT scanner and digital X-ray machine, allowing doctors to monitor the changing shape and depth of a tumor with each treatment.

Finally, the accelerator can be programmed via a respiratory monitoring system to deliver radiation at only specific stages of the breathing cycle to ensure precision delivery if the tumor moves slightly as the patient breathes (such as a tumor in the chest cavity). The system enables medical staff to deliver treatments more precisely by tracking and adjusting for tumor movements caused by breathing.

"Colorado State is pleased to add yet another cutting-edge tool to the university’s arsenal to fight animal cancer and advance medical discoveries," said Tony Frank, senior vice president and provost for Colorado State University. "The ability to use this technology on patients and in research is an exciting development."

     Funding for the system was provided by the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, the Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences, Colorado State’s Academic Enrichment Program, the university’s Animal Cancer Center and the Colorado State University Research Foundation.