whole body scan

State-of-the-art system for precision radiation therapy

CyberKnife® is a painless, non-invasive form of radiation. It offers accurate, effective treatment for tumors anywhere in the body—even in places previously considered unreachable.

This form of radiation therapy uses a combination of computers, image-guided cameras, and robotic technology to aim directly at tumor cells, while limiting exposure to surrounding healthy tissue.

How does it work?

CyberKnife® controls or destroys tumors by aiming beams of radiation at them from multiple directions. 

  • Multiple X-ray cameras and powerful software pinpoint the exact location of a tumor 
  • A robotic arm uses a linear accelerator to aim high-powered beams directly at the tumor from more than 1,400 different angles 
  • Because the robotic arm has unparalleled flexibility, the beams can be directed even at difficult-to-reach areas of the body 
  • Because the beams are so precise, they focus only on the tumor, and minimize dose to healthy surrounding tissue

What makes it different?

The system was designed for patient comfort during treatment. 

The system tracks the position of the target throughout treatment, eliminating the need to immobilize the area of the body being treated. Typically, most cases are:

  • Treated in one to five treatment sessions
  • Performed on an outpatient basis over one to 10 days without overnight hospital stays 

Most patients experience minimal or no side effects and recover quickly from the radiation therapy.

Benefits

This technology offers several advantages over conventional external radiation treatments as well as other radiosurgery systems. That’s because it:

  • Targets tumors previously considered unreachable by surgery or radiotherapy
  • May have fewer complications and lower risks than surgery or conventional radiation
  • Can be completed more quickly       
    • Traditional radiation therapy may require as many as 40 sessions
  • Does not require anesthesia, incisions, blood loss, or recovery time
  • Uses the body's bony structures or implanted markers to find its target
    • Similar techniques require patients to wear uncomfortable frames during the procedure
  • Doesn’t require overnight hospital stay 
  • Uses the Synchrony Respiratory Tracking System® to follow tumor movement, even while you breathe
    • Other techniques require patients to hold their breath during treatment 
  • Directs radiation to the tumor from more than 1,400 different possible angles to:
    • Concentrate radiation on the tumor itself
    • Avoid surrounding, healthy tissue
  • Treats previously radiated areas safely and effectively 
    • Not previously possible
    • An innovative option for these patients
  • Allows doses to be spread over multiple visits 

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What to expect

Treatment is tailored for each person, based on each tumor’s unique shape, size, type, and location. 

Before treatment:

  • Patients are included in a treatment planning session, which includes a CT scan of the tumor to be treated
  • Computerized images of the tumor, surrounding tissues and other structures show the target’s exact location and help the specialized team of physicians, physicists, and treatment planners to determine the best approaches, radiation dosage, as well as other details for the safest and most effective treatment 
  • To treat certain tumors, fiducials (or markers) may be implanted
  • - Fiducial implantation is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure performed using local or general anesthesia. 

    - These tiny gold or platinum markers guide the CyberKnife® robot and assure accuracy during the treatment sessions.

During treatment:

  • Patients lie on a special table while the robotic arm delivers the radiation 
  • Individual treatment sessions typically last about 30 minutes, with most patients resuming regular activities after each visit 

A full course of CyberKnife® treatment is normally shorter than other forms of radiation therapy. Depending on the type of tumor, patients receive one to five outpatient treatments within 1 to 2 weeks.

Types of cancer treated

CyberKnife® is commonly used to treat inoperable or complex tumors. It is an excellent alternative for patients who cannot or do not want to undergo surgery and for patients who have tumors in very sensitive or hard-to-reach places.

Read about the types of cancer it can be used to treat. 

Brain, spine, and skull-base tumors

CyberKnife® was originally developed to treat brain and spine tumors, but without the rigid surgically attached head frame required by other radiosurgery systems. Instead, brain tumor patients who are treated with this type of therapy wear a tailor-made, lightweight,  open-mesh face mask. 

The result is a much more comfortable and noninvasive experience. 

This therapy also requires only one to five treatment sessions for brain and spinal tumors, as compared to 10 to 30 sessions with traditional forms of radiation therapy.

Head and neck cancer

CyberKnife® can be used to treat cancers that begin within or spread to the head and neck. Used alone or with intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and chemotherapy, it attacks tumors located in the:

  • Eye and eye socket (orbit) 
  • Nasopharynx 
  • Sinus
  • Nasal cavity
  • Tongue
  • Salivary glands
  • Windpipe (trachea) 
  • Voice box (larynx)
  • Lymph nodes in the upper part of the neck
  • Other sites 

Before treatment, patients are outfitted with a custom-made, lightweight, open-mesh face mask to assure that the targeted tumor is in exactly the same position for each session.

Lung cancer

CyberKnife® has been used to successfully treat:

  • Early-stage lung tumors
  • High-risk surgical patients including the elderly and those with severe emphysema
  • Previously irradiated patients whose tumors have returned 

This therapy can be used along with surgery and chemotherapy to attack metastatic lung tumors that form when cancer starts in another part of the body and spreads to the lungs. 

Before treatment, fiducial markers are placed near the lung tumor to assure accuracy in pinpointing the target while protecting surrounding healthy tissue. 

Metastatic cancer

Metastatic cancer implies that an initial cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the bone. 

The treatment of these tumors can be complicated. Some, such as tumors of the brain or spine, or tumors that are wrapped around other critical structures are often considered inoperable or surgically challenging. 

The experts at the MedStar Health Cancer Network are successfully treating many of these tumors using CyberKnife® Robotic Radiosurgery, one of the most advanced technologies available to eliminate malignant and benign tumors anywhere in the body—all without the stress and recovery time needed for surgery.

Pancreatic cancer

Many pancreatic tumors are virtually impossible to remove surgically. Conventional radiation is hard to deliver directly to these tumors because they are moving targets, moving as you breathe. Surrounding healthy tissue often receives unnecessary doses of radiation in these procedures. 

This therapy, with its advanced combination of computer and imaging technology, helps:

  • Identify the exact location of the pancreatic tumor
  • Coordinate with the Synchrony Respiratory Tracking System (which follows the tumor's movement as you breathe)
  • Accurately focus radiation on the tumor without affecting surrounding healthy tissue. 

Our teams are among the most experienced in the nation, and our doctors are currently researching the effectiveness of CyberKnife®.

Prostate cancer

CyberKnife® may be used for treating prostate cancer for:

  • Cancer confined to the prostate and seminal vesicles
  • Prostate cancer that doesn’t meet the criteria for brachytherapy

This treatment for prostate cancer offers distinct advantages:

  • Five treatment sessions compared to the 40 or more required with other forms of radiation therapy
  • Proven results that are comparable to traditional radiation therapy as demonstrated by national and international clinical studies 
  • Preserved quality of life during and after treatment

Before treatment, the prostate is implanted with fiducials—tiny gold markers that help assure accuracy in both targeting the tumor and avoiding nearby healthy tissue. 

Additionally, CyberKnife® can be used in conjunction with conventional radiation for men with high-risk prostate cancer.

Trigeminal neuralgia

Trigeminal neuralgia is one of the most painful neurological conditions. It is characterized by sudden, electric shock-like pain, on one side of the face. Shocks typically last a few seconds, and can occur as rarely as once a day, or as often as many times an hour.

The location of the pain is determined by the branches of the trigeminal nerve, and can involve the forehead and corner of the eye, cheek, and corner of the nose, lower jaw, and corner of the mouth. The pain can also involve a combination of these locations.

Some activities and environmental stimuli can trigger the pain, including:

  • Chewing
  • Talking
  • Brushing teeth
  • Cold temperature
  • Windy conditions

With this treatment, radiation beams are delivered to the trigeminal nerve with pinpoint accuracy in order to dull the pain. There is no cutting, blood loss, or hospital stay. The entire treatment is delivered in a single, painless 45-minute session. 

Most patients experience elimination or significant reduction of their face pain within several days to weeks. 

Is it right for you?

It may be your best option if:

  • Your lesion or tumor is untreatable by surgery or other radiation modalities
  • You have previously undergone radiation treatments
  • You prefer a non-surgical treatment approach
  • You have other health conditions that make surgery or general anesthesia unadvisable

Our providers

Radiologist and medical technician at the computer tomography getting a scan

Expert radiation therapy services

Getting the care you need starts with seeing one of our radiation specialists to discuss CyberKnife®.

Our locations

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MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center

9000 Franklin Square Dr
Baltimore, MD 21237

MedStar Georgetown University Hospital

3800 Reservoir Rd. NW
Washington, DC 20007

Additional information

Research studies

MedStar Health is conducting or participating in CyberKnife® clinical trials to learn more about its potential benefits for patients with certain conditions: 

  • Pancreatic tumors: Doctors often try to make some pancreatic tumors operable by first shrinking them with chemotherapy and radiation. We’re substituting CyberKnife® for conventional radiation to improve results.
  • Liver tumors: Our initial trial found that CyberKnife® treatment of inoperable tumors was as effective as other options: chemoembolization, radio frequency ablation, and conventional radiation. It didn’t matter if the tumors originated in the liver or spread (metastasized) from elsewhere.
  • Lung cancer: Initial results show that CyberKnife® is as effective as surgery for patients who are not good candidates for an operation and have early-stage cancer.