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Pieces of Eight


ECU Brachytherapy Device Purchased with Grant Funds

By Doug Boyd

A $150,000 grant from The Cannon Foundation has paid for an advanced machine to treat patients at the Leo W. Jenkins Cancer Center at East Carolina University.

“This state-of-the-art device is already in use and is helping quite a few patients,” said Dr. Ron Allison, chair of radiation oncology at the Brody School of Medicine at ECU.  
Brachytherapy is the use of tiny radioactive implants to deliver radiation to a tumor site and kill the tumor.

“Classically, (brachytherapy) involves manually placing the radioactive sources which usually stay in place for several days and are then removed,” Allison said. “So, the patient has to stay in a special lead-lined room, stay in bed immobile for several days and staff has radiation exposure during this time. The high-dose-rate unit remotely places the sources into the tumor and offers the equivalent radiation therapy in minutes, not days.
This means patients can walk in and out for their treatment, which is far more comfortable and friendly.”Oncologists often use high-dose-rate therapy for breast cancer, gynecologic cancer and lung cancer.

“It is of particular value in a rural area where the distance to get to the radiation center is so great that many patients forego their therapy,” Allison said. “The Cannon Foundation was extremely generous to allow us to purchase the most advanced HDR system on the market so that we can give the very best HDR therapy possible.”

The ECU Medical & Health Sciences Foundation, which helped secure the funds, is working to raise additional money to build and equip a special room to house the device, said Carole Novick, foundation president.

“We are very grateful to The Cannon Foundation for providing the funds to purchase this important piece of equipment,” Novick said. “This brachytherapy device is at the center of our efforts to raise funds to construct a new lead-shielded suite within the Leo W. Jenkins Cancer Center to fully realize all the potential of this machine and allow us to treat even more patients.”

The total cost to build and equip the suite is $700,000.

This page originally appeared in the July 31, 2009 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at