MRIdian: Treating childhood sarcoma

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Soft-tissue sarcomas are cancers that begin in the muscles, tendons, blood vessels and tissue near joints. While this cancer can strike at any age, one form of sarcoma is especially cruel, as it most often strikes patients under ten. (KFSN)

Soft-tissue sarcomas are cancers that begin in the muscles, tendons, blood vessels and tissue near joints. While this cancer can strike at any age, one form of sarcoma is especially cruel, as it most often strikes patients under ten. A new therapy is wiping out the cancer while protecting kids from life-long side effects.

Bridget Whiston has spent most of her days over the past year inside a Missouri hospital.

Bridget's mom, Linda, told Ivanhoe, "Her stomach started blowing back up. It was hard. You knew there was something not right."

Bridget was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, the most common soft-tissue cancer in kids. For Bridget, it started near her liver.

Stephanie Perkins, MD, a radiation oncologist at Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, explained, "It's a challenge because the tumor is right next to her heart. It's also a challenge because this area moves as we breathe."

Chemo took the toddler's hair, but also wiped out most of the tumor. For the remaining cancer cells, doctors used a cutting-edge radiation system called the MRIdian system by View Ray.

"If she takes in a deep breath and the tumor goes outside of the radiation field, the machine stops until the tumor returns back into the target," continued Dr. Perkins.

This protects the healthy cells.

Bridget's dad, Jason, said, "Anything that minimizes side effects, or an area of treatment that doesn't need treatment, is huge."

Doctors say there is every sign that, for Bridget, the precisely placed dose is working.

"There's no sign of the tumor, so that's wonderful," said Linda.

The Whistons hope to leave hospitals behind for good, with no lasting signs of Bridget's battle with childhood cancer.

Dr. Perkins said before the MRIdian, doctors would treat the sarcoma by plotting a radiation course with traditional x-ray machines. In addition, x-ray and CT scans also expose patients to additional radiation, which doctors are trying to avoid.
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