BERKELEY -- Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (LBL) has signed a
two-year agreement to transfer its heavy-ion radiosurgical
technology for treating a deadly brain disorder to Loma Linda
University Medical Center's Proton Cancer Treatment Center.
The technology targets the treatment of arteriovenous malformations
(AVMs), abnormal blood vessels in the brain which can often,
without treatment, cause lethal or disabling brain hemorrhages and
"This agreement will assure that patients with surgically
inoperable AVMs will once again have access to heavy-ion
radiosurgical treatment, the best available therapy for this
potentially life-threatening disorder," said Richard Levy, M.D.,
Ph.D., lead scientist of the heavy-ion radiosurgery program at LBL.
The program was curtailed in 1992 when federal budget cut-backs
forced the closure of LBL's Bevatron, the accelerator used to
generate the therapeutic beams.
AVM symptoms typically appear before age 40 and occur in otherwise
healthy young people. It is estimated that some 300,000
individuals in North America suffer from AVMs.
"This collaboration, and many others like it, demonstrates that
Department of Energy technology is making a difference in medical
research. The benefit will be to help ease the suffering of those
who have been awaiting treatment for this deadly brain disorder,"
said Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary.
The DOE's Heavy-Ion Radiosurgery program began in 1954 when the
late Dr. John Lawrence first used proton beams at LBL's 184-inch
Synchrocyclotron to treat patients with breast cancer. In 1980,
the late Dr. Jacob I. Fabrikant established the AVM radiosurgery
program at LBL, which has been led since 1993 by Dr. Levy. Under
their guidance, and with DOE support, the program achieved
international recognition. The closure of the Bevatron after
treatment of some 2500 patients marked the end of nearly 40 years
of pioneering radiation medicine research at LBL.
"Results to date for AVM patients treated at LBL have been
excellent," said Dr. Levy. "Cure rates greater than 85 percent
have been achieved with heavy-ion radiosurgical treatment of small
AVMs, and with a low risk of complications," he said.
Patients will now be treated at Loma Linda's specialized facility,
which is built around a mini accelerator. The accelerator
generates beams that are transported through a conduit into one of
four treatment rooms. Patients rest on a couch with their head
secured in a customized mask and frame. With millimeter precision
the beams are focused on the AVM to obliterate abnormal vessels and
remove the risk of future brain hemorrhage. The actual beam
treatment lasts less than one minute. Most patients are able to
return to work or other activities immediately after the
Dr. Levy and Dr. James Slater of Loma Linda's Department of
Radiation Medicine are coordinating this collaborative effort with
Drs. Gary Steinberg and Michael Marks of the Departments of
Neurosurgery and Radiology at Stanford University Medical Center.
LBL is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory located in
Berkeley, California. It conducts unclassified scientific research
and is managed by the University of California.