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Department of Radiation Oncology

City of Hope’s Department of Radiation Oncology — one of the largest and most experienced radiation oncology programs in Southern California — is leading the way in improving patient care with latest radiation treatments. With a focus on precise imaging and selective, targeted treatment, our physicians and researchers are harnessing the precision and power of these advanced tools to kill cancer cells while preserving a patient’s quality of life.

Program History

The Department of Radiation Oncology has had a long tradition in forging new advances and translating new discoveries into the clinic. With early radiation therapy technologies, physicians could only treat cancers at or close to the skin surface. In the 1950s and 1960s the City of Hope pioneered the development of cobalt-60 therapy devices. Using this more powerful radiation beam, physicians were now able to treat and cure many types of cancers deep in the body.

City of Hope was the first to install a cesium-137 teletherapy unit to treat patients on a daily basis. Radiation oncologists at City of Hope were also one of the first to pioneer the use of total body irradiation (TBI) in patients with leukemia and other life-threatening diseases. Today TBI is an important therapy in many patients undergoing life-saving bone marrow transplantation.

Physicists at City of Hope were one of the first to apply the power of CT imaging with the power of the new radiation therapy machines. For the first time physicians could see the patient’s cancer and internal anatomy in three-dimensional space, allowing for more precise targeting and shaping of the radiation dose to further increase cure rates and reduce side effects.

Our Program Today

Recently, we were the first institution in the U.S. to use focused ultrasound to treat prostate cancer. Unlike other forms of therapy such as surgery or radiation, only the portion of the prostate gland containing biopsy proven cancer is targeted with magnetic resonance guided ultrasound. Although still under investigation, this approach holds promise to reduce the risk of impotence and incontinence associated with other forms of prostate cancer therapy.

The latest frontier in cancer medicine is embodied in the new Elsie and Robert Pierson Radiation Oncology Center at City of Hope's main campus in Duarte. The center offers the latest therapeutic and imaging technologies. This includes Tomotherapy and TrueBeam, which allow one machine to do the work previously done by several: imaging of the tumor, mapping its exact shape and “sculpting” a radiation beam to the tumor. This maximizes its impact against cancer cells while sparing nearby healthy tissue, resulting in less pain, less invasive treatment, faster healing and a shorter recovery time.

Additionally, the center is the first in Southern California to integrate crucial cancer imaging technologies, such as positron emission tomography (PET), multi-parametric magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and 3D CT imaging, with next generation therapy technologies. This allows our physicians today to offer patients an unprecedented access to the full capabilities of image-guided therapies. Cancers are now more visible and can no longer hide from therapy.

City of Hope’s advanced equipment and specialized staff have enabled it to become the first cancer center to deliver total marrow irradiation, as shown on the right. This targeted form of therapy focuses radiation energy to the bone marrow while limiting exposure in other tissues. As a result, patients with blood cancers (such as leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma) — particularly those with advanced cases — have better outcomes, including the chance of complete remission. We have treated more patients with this therapy than any other center in the world.

Cancer is a challenging disease. Providing care for patients is becoming increasingly more complex. To provide the highest level of care today for each type of cancer, you need a team of experts from a wide range of disciplines, armed with the latest technologies and driven by a commitment to advancing cancer care. Having therapy at the nearest location, although convenient, may no longer be the best option for many patients. Going the extra mile for expert care can make a difference!

We invite you to explore our website and discover why City of Hope and the Department of Radiation Oncology continues to be a leader in cancer medicine.