CyberKnife System at St. Catherine Hospital upgrades to more advanced version, cancer patients continue to have latest treatment technology close to home

CyberKnife System at St. Catherine Hospital upgrades to more advanced version, cancer patients continue to have latest treatment technology close to home

Known for high quality cancer care, the hospitals of Community Healthcare System have provided patients with some of the newest and most advanced non-surgical treatment options available in the country. To continue to provide the latest treatment technology in a setting that is convenient and close to home, the CyberKnife® system at St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago is undergoing a major upgrade. The CyberKnife S7® version combines speed and precision to plan and deliver treatments faster than before and provide care for a wider range of patients.

St. Catherine Hospital was the first site in Indiana and the entire Chicagoland area in 2005 to offer CyberKnife to cancer patients. It is the first CyberKnife site in Indiana to install the new S7 technology. This innovative treatment method has provided solutions for those patients with cancer whose tumors could not be removed surgically or otherwise treated effectively.

With their vast experience with CyberKnife, Community Healthcare System physicians have used this technology to treat cancers of the brain, spine, liver, lungs, pancreas as well as prostate cancer. Physicians also are treating non-cancerous tumors like acoustic neuromas, meningiomas and non-tumor functional conditions like trigeminal neuralgia with CyberKnife.

“What has evolved with the newest version of CyberKnife is the treatment delivery (minutes versus hours) and treatment design (minutes versus days),” explained CyberKnife Medical Director and Radiation Oncologist Andrej Zajac, MD. “A faster treatment is a more comfortable treatment which means the patient is less likely to move during treatment and the treatment can remain hyper-accurate.” 

CyberKnife is a non-invasive radiation therapy meaning the treatment process does not require incisions, general anesthesia, hospitalization or a long recovery period. Unlike other radiosurgery systems such as Gamma Knife, the CyberKnife system does not require patients to be fitted with a rigid and invasive head frame or rigid immobilization devices.

CyberKnifedelivers high doses of radiation to cancer cells with pinpoint precision using the same technology that leads cruise missiles to their targets, and causes no bleeding or pain for the patient. The system specializes in delivering stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) and stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT), treatment processes that require an extremely high degree of precision and accuracy. In stereotactic radiosurgery, very small beams of radiation are directed from different angles to better shape radiation around the tumor and spare critical structures and organs in its path. CyberKnife can direct up to 1,600 beams of radiation at a single target from different angles. Each small beam of radiation does not harm the healthy tissue or organs it passes through. However, when each of these beams intersects at the target, a high enough dose is delivered to destroy the tumor and stop the progression of abnormal cell growth.

This unique dynamic tracking and adaptation capability enables physicians to deliver high doses of radiation with exceptional accuracy while minimizing dose to healthy tissue. The system tracks the patient and specifically targets motion during treatment (such as lung or liver tumors moving with breathing) and will automatically adjust itself to remain accurate and keep the treatment very precise.

“The shorter treatment design time also allows for more patients to be treated in a given day or week,” Zajac said. “One disease site that really benefits from the shorter treatment times is prostate cancer. The new system will allow for more men with early stage prostate cancer to be fully treated over a course of five days rather than weeks or have surgery.”

The S7 version of CyberKnife is more versatile and features additional components that enhance what physicians can do in terms of treatment as compared to the original system. The S7 is equipped with a multi-leaf collimator which enables intensity modulated radiation therapy or IMRT treatment. IMRT is used, in part, to treat prostate cancer, head and neck cancers, lung cancer, brain cancer, gastrointestinal cancers and breast cancer as these tumors tend to be located close to critical organs and tissues in the body.

Working together to treat an even wider range of patients, St. Catherine Hospital’s sister hospitals, Community Hospital in Munster and St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart, also offer the TrueBeam® linear radiotherapy system to track and destroy tumors without harming nearby healthy tissue and healthy organs.

“CyberKnife S7 is newer, faster and delivers exceptional results, which is so important to the patient,” said Jacqueline Katz, director of Radiation Oncology and Medical Physics, Community Healthcare System. “With this upgrade, we have an opportunity to help our patients get the treatments they need close to home. They won’t need to travel out of their community to get the same quality treatment that is available at metropolitan academic medical centers across the country.”

Community Healthcare System offers the area's most comprehensive cancer care program, with a broad range of treatment and diagnostic options. In addition to advanced cancer-fighting technology and radiation therapy treatments, dedicated inpatient and outpatient oncology and home healthcare services are available at its three hospitals. Patients also receive support from the Community Cancer Research Foundation for access to clinical trials and studies and the Cancer Resource Centre for mind-body-spirit programs in Munster.

For more information about cancer care services available at the hospitals of Community Healthcare System, visit