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UF Health unveils imaging machine, one of 42 in world, to tackle difficult cancers

Press releases may be edited for formatting or style | July 25, 2022 MRI Rad Oncology
UF Health is now the first site in the southeastern United States to house a groundbreaking device that will provide personalized cancer treatment by combining extremely detailed magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, with precision radiotherapy.

The technology paves the way for new therapeutic options for patients with the most challenging types of cancers, such as pancreatic and liver and tumors that have metastasized or spread into soft tissues.

The 1.5-Tesla MRI-guided linear accelerator, called the Elekta Unity MR-Linac, required more than two years of construction, installation and training in the UF College of Medicine’s department of radiation oncology at the UF Health Davis Cancer Pavilion. The device was unveiled today (Thursday, July 21) and is now available for patient care.

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“I am thrilled that we will be able to offer this leading-edge technology to our patients and further support the life-changing care our teams in radiation oncology already provide,” said Traci d’Auguste, chief operating officer for UF Health. “We keep advancing our treatments and investing to improve for our patients.”

The device, one of only 42 in clinical use worldwide, has real-time MRI capabilities, allowing physicians to plan and deliver precise, adaptive treatment. It is particularly critical for patients with tumors in the liver, prostate, gastrointestinal organs and urinary and reproductive tracts.

“This technology provides more opportunities to improve our use of radiation therapy than we’ve ever had,” said Robert Zlotecki, M.D., Ph.D., a professor and vice chair for clinical affairs in the department of radiation oncology. “The 1.5-T MR-Linac allows us to visualize changes in the tumor or tumors with each daily treatment precisely delivered. We can probe the biology of cancers as we are treating by using predictive biomarkers of tumor response. Truly translational research can be achieved with this technology.”

Paul Okunieff, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair in the department of radiation oncology, discusses the Elekta Unity MR-Linac with Traci d’Auguste, chief operating officer for UF Health, during a groundbreaking ceremony at the UF Health Davis Cancer Pavilion on Thursday, July 21.
Paul Okunieff, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair in the department of radiation oncology, discusses the Elekta Unity MR-Linac with Traci d’Auguste, chief operating officer for UF Health, during a groundbreaking ceremony at the UF Health Davis Cancer Pavilion on Thursday, July 21.

The Elekta Unity MR-Linac features a magnet 30,000 times stronger than Earth’s magnetic field. This imaging is encased in a radiation delivery system called a linear accelerator, or linac. The moving, ring-shaped frame of the accelerator is six times faster than conventional treatment systems. That means there are much higher odds for accurately and successfully destroying a tumor, as there will be less chance for either tumor or normal organ motion to occur.

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