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This Oncologist is Using Revolutionary Tech to Treat Cancer

Kasey Stanton, Web Content, Coordinator, Consumer Technology Association (CTA)™

Advancements in technology have changed the scope of the health and wellness industry. Technology has enabled us to monitor our health and prevent potential issues, as well as drastically change the way we treat existing conditions.  In the field of radiation oncology, new tech products are greatly reducing the risks of certain cancer treatments and improving the lives of patients that have to undergo such treatment.

We had the privilege of hearing from Dr. Bobby Hong, the Medical Director of Radiation Oncology at Virginia Hospital Center, on one particular advancement, the Calypso System, that is revolutionizing cancer treatment.
What is the basic technology behind the Calypso system?
“Calypso beacons are tiny transponders the size of a grain of rice that are placed in tumors inside a person’s body and provide wireless, radiofrequency tracking of the cancer during radiation therapy. Each transponder contains an alternating current (AC) electromagnetic resonance circuit inside silicon. A thin flat panel array is placed above the patient near the implanted beacons. This electromagnetic array emits radiofrequency signals at selected pulse rates that are used to excite the transponders at their unique resonant frequencies. The transponders absorb some of the energy and re-emit it in the form of a decaying signal that is detected by the array. The relative location is further calibrated to the treatment room coordinate reference system by mounted infrared cameras. Ultimately, the relative location of the tumor can be identified in real-time throughout the treatment.  At Virginia Hospital Center, our Calypso system is "gated" to our Linear Accelerators, allowing automation of beam delivery. A misalignment of the target is automatically detected, and the radiation delivery stops. The accuracy of the detection of the target is less than one millimeter.”

How has this system changed the way procedures are done?
“The goal of radiation therapy is to deliver an ablative dose of energy to cancer cells while minimizing unnecessary exposure to normal tissues. The Calypso system allows us to see exactly where the tumor is during treatment. Continuous tracking allows us to concentrate radiation to the tumor. This not only reduces side effects caused by normal tissue exposure, but enables dose escalation to achieve better cancer control. Radiation treatment planning always builds in margins for error. The Calypso tracking system has reduced our margin of error, resulting in better clinical outcomes.”

You have said that you are focusing on not only on trying to establish a cure, but also on finding “treatments that promote a good quality of life.” How is this new technology improving the lives of your patients?
“By tracking the internal motion of the tumor, any displacement can be monitored and realigned in real time. That is why we call this 4-Dimensional radiation therapy. The increased accuracy and precision of radiation dose delivery results in better cancer control which is the main way we can promote a better quality of life. Furthermore, depending on the cancer location, by avoiding unnecessary radiation exposure to critical organs like the bladder, rectum, bowel, kidney, liver, heart and lung; patients suffer less side effects acutely, and in turn have fewer long term complications.”

What other technologies are you using in radiation oncology that have significantly changed the way cancer is treated?
“Just this week, a breast cancer study was presented at ASTRO that showed a five day treatment treating only part of a woman's breast (accelerated partial breast irradiation) was equivalent to a seven week course of treatment treating the whole breast. This was achieved by using technology called multi-catheter brachytherapy.  I have treated nearly 700 women with early stage breast cancer using this technology, and have achieved excellent cure rates, but also greater than 90 percent good-to-excellent cosmetic results as assessed by both doctors and nurses, as well as by patients themselves.”

How do you hope that technology will continue to improve cancer treatment in the future?
“It is an exciting time for the intersection of medicine and technology. Technology is transforming cancer care as we speak. Technologies like chimeric antigen receptor T-cells that are harnessing our own immune system to fight cancer may offer cures for certain types of cancer. The use of robotics is helping us perform minimally invasive procedures. Ultimately, technology is not only going to enable us to cure more cancers, but more importantly, it will enable us to survive the cure.”
Find out more about how technology is changing health and wellness at

Dr. Bobby Hong is the Medical Director of Radiation Oncology at Virginia Hospital Center. He has published widely and is a frequent presenter on topics such as head and neck cancer, lung cancer and functional imaging such as PET scans. He has been recognized for his expertise in medical informatics, as well as in gynecologic and prostate brachytherapy with prestigious scholarships from the American College of Radiation Oncology and the American Brachytherapy Society. He is committed to using the latest technologies to deliver the best possible care for his patients.