For years, Breast Cancer Help directed all of the net proceeds of its current fundraising efforts toward the purchase of a lifesaving Novalis radiosurgery system for use in the radiation oncology department of Stony Brook University Hospital.
Developed by BrainLAB, a manufacturer of powerful computer-guided medical instruments, the Novalis system represents cutting-edge technology in stereotactic radiosurgery; that is, the non-invasive delivery of a precise dose of high-energy radiation to a lesion located within the skull.
This type of surgery is typically performed on an outpatient basis and, because no incision is required, it avoids the risks, costs, and recovery time associated with traditional brain surgery.
The board and membership of Breast Cancer Help decided to undertake this goal because, having supported research efforts in the past, they want to fight cancer in the clinical setting in the interest of helping current cancer patients. Although primarily designed for treating brain tumors, the Novalis system does have some application with respect to breast cancer.
Dr. Larry Reinstein, Professor of Radiation Oncology at Stony Brook, notes: “When breast cancer spreads to the brain, the Novalis system can be used to apply a precision dose of radiation to the affected area while avoiding radiation to normal tissue. It is a safer treatment with less side effects.”
With further research the Novalis system can be used to deliver precise boosting to higher doses of radiation in specific areas of the breast for better disease control.
At the time of purchase, because this equipment is so new and expensive, there were only four such systems operating in the world. When Breast Cancer Help donated phase one to Stony Brook University Hospital it was the first system available for use on Long Island. There was no hospital on Long Island with anything that could match the therapeutic capability of the Novalis system. The completed acquisition will further enhance Stony Brook’s ability to provide excellence in cancer care.
Why Stony Brook
Stony Brook’s commitment to advancing cancer care was recognized in 1998 with federal and state grants enabling the establishment of the Cancer Institute of Long Island at Stony Brook, which is designed to serve as the region’s premier cancer center.
Combining the resources of a major research university with those of a major medical center has made Stony Brook the choice institution in the region for the establishment of a comprehensive cancer center supported by the National Cancer Institute.
The total cost of the Novalis system is $2.2 million and a phased approach is planned for the purchase of the equipment. The first phase, involved the purchase of the initial machinery to treat regularly-shaped brain tumors from all types of cancer. The second phase, which is not completed, involved the purchase of machinery to treat tumors with an irregular shape. Suffolk County Executive Robert J. Gaffney recently presented a check for $250,000 to be combined with a $100,000 contribution from Breast Cancer Help, to purchase this equipment. The equipment in the third phase must be purchased in one section at a cost in excess of $1 million.
In addition to Breast Cancer Help’s direct contribution, the completion of phase two was made possible by donations from the State University of New York, Suffolk County Executive Robert Gaffney, various federal government entities.