Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the CyberKnife System?

The The CyberKnife® Robotic Radiosurgery System is a non-invasive alternative to surgery for the treatment of both cancerous and non-cancerous tumors anywhere in the body, including the head, spine, lung, prostate, liver and pancreas.  The treatment – which delivers beams of high dose radiation to tumors with extreme accuracy – offers new hope to patients worldwide.

Though its name may conjure images of scalpels and surgery, the CyberKnife treatment involves no cutting. In fact, the CyberKnife System is the world’s first and only robotic radiosurgery system designed to treat tumors throughout the body non-invasively.  It provides a pain-free, non-surgical option for patients who have inoperable or surgically complex tumors, or who may be looking for an alternative to surgery.

2. What can the CyberKnife treat?

The CyberKnife® System is a non-invasive alternative to surgery for the treatment of both cancerous and non-cancerous tumors anywhere in the body, including the head, spine, lung, prostate,  liver and pancreas.  The treatment – which delivers high doses of radiation to tumors with extreme accuracy – offers new hope to patients who have inoperable or surgically complex tumors, or who may be looking for a non-surgical option. To date, more than 50,000 patients have been treated and more than 140 systems are installed worldwide.

Below is a list of some, but not all intracranial (head and brain) tumors and lesions that can be treated by the CyberKnife System:

  • Acoustic neuroma
  • Anaplastic astrocytoma
  • Arteriovenous malformation (AVM)
  • Craniopharyngioma
  • DNET
  • Ependymoma
  • Epidural hematoma
  • Gangliocytoma
  • Germinoma
  • Glioblastoma multiforme
  • Glioma
  • Glomus jugulare tumor
  • Hemangioblastoma
  • Meningioma
  • Neurocytoma
  • Neurofibroma
  • Neurofibromatosis
  • Oligodendroglioma
  • PNET
  • Pituitary adenoma
  • Schwannoma
  • Trigeminal neuralgia
  • Vestibular schwannoma

Below is a list of some, but not all extracranial (outside of the head and brain) tumors and lesions that can be treated by the CyberKnife System:

  • Osteosarcoma
  • Nasopharyngeal carcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Non-small cell lung cancer
  • Small-cell lung cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Prostate cancer
  • Renal cell carcinoma
  • Colon cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Uterine cancer
  • Arteriovenous malformation (AVM)

3. How many patients have been treated with the CyberKnife System?

As of July 2008 more than 50,000 patients have been treated worldwide by the CyberKnife System. More than half of those patients were treated with lesions or tumors outside of the brain and head.

4. What are the patient benefits of treatment?

Patient Benefits include:

  • Pain free procedure — The CyberKnife treatment is pain free non-invasive alternative to surgery. The treatment does not require anesthesia, effectively eliminating the risk of complications associated with traditional surgery.

  • Minimal recovery time — Compared to traditional surgery, which may require an overnight hospital stay, CyberKnife treatments are performed on an outpatient basis with little or no recovery time allowing patients to return to normal activities almost immediately.

  • Superior Comfort — Patients experience improved comfort due to the system’s frameless design, which eliminates the pain and inconvenience associated with invasive head and body frames typically associated with other radiosurgery systems.

5. Has the CyberKnife System been cleared by the FDA?

Yes, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared the CyberKnife System to treat tumors in the head, neck and upper spine in 1999 and tumors anywhere in the body in 2001.

6. What are the steps in the CyberKnife treatment process?

  • Scanning — Prior to treatment with the CyberKnife System, the patient undergoes imaging procedures to determine the size, shape and location of the tumor. The process begins with a standard high-resolution CT scan, and for certain tumors or other imaging techniques, such as an MRI, angiography or PET, may also be used.

  • Planning — Following the scanning, the image data is then digitally transferred to the CyberKnife System’s treatment planning workstation, where the treating physician identifies the exact size, shape, and location of the tumor. A qualified team of physicians uses the CyberKnife software to generate a treatment plan to proved the desired radiation does to the identified tumor location while avoiding damage to the surrounding healthy tissue. The patient does not need to be present during this step in the process.

  • Treatment — During a CyberKnife procedure, a patient lies comfortably on the treatment table, which automatically positions the patient. Anesthesia is not required, as the procedure is painless and non-invasive. The treatment generally lasts between 30 to 120 minutes and is typically completed in one to five visits.

  • Follow-up — Follow-up imaging, generally performed with a combination of CT, MRI and/or PET scanning, is usually performed in the months following treatment to assess the tumor’s response to the delivered radiation.

7. What side effects can I expect after a CyberKnife treatment?

Most patients experience minimal to no short-term side effects and often recover quickly. Depending on the treatment site, some patient’s may experience different side effects such as mild fatigue or nausea. The CyberKnife physician will disclose all possible side effects prior to treatment.

8. How many times can I receive a CyberKnife treatment?

The frequency of treatments depend on where the tumor is located and what type of tumor is being treated. Most cases can receive multi-treatments or can be re-treated with the CyberKnife System.

9. After a CyberKnife treatment, when will my tumor or lesion disappear?

The effects of radiosurgery vary and may occur gradually and over time. The timeframe can range from days, months or years depending on the medical condition targeted. Some tumors may disappear slower than others or may simply stop growing and present no further cell activity. After treatment, patients typically are asked to get periodic images (CAT scan or MRI) of their tumor(s) and additional tests may be required, so the physician can monitor the effectiveness of the treatment.

10. How is the CyberKnife “radiosurgery” treatment different from a traditional radiation therapy treatment?

Traditional radiation therapy typically delivers radiation to a wide field of tissue in the body resulting in the treatment of both the tumor and a large amount of surrounding healthy tissue. This is necessary because traditional radiation therapy systems did not account for tumor motion and were therefore much less accurate. These wide radiation fields increased the possibility of damage to normal tissue, increasing the risk of side effects following the radiation treatment. To reduce the number of side effects, clinicians were forced to rethink the way traditional radiation therapy was delivered. As a result, the overall radiation dose was reduced and the number of treatments was divided into 30 to 40 sessions, delivered over a period of weeks.

Radiosurgery devices, such as the CyberKnife Robotic Radiosurgery System, were designed to deliver radiation with extreme accuracy, targeting the tumor with minimal damage to the surrounding healthy tissue.  The accuracy of the CyberKnife System allows clinicians to deliver very high doses of radiation safely because the size of the radiation field is smaller and only includes the tumor and a small amount of surrounding tissue.  This allows for less damage to surrounding healthy tissue and for clinicians to complete treatment in 1 to 5 days vs. the weeks it takes traditional radiation therapy.

11. How does the CyberKnife System differ from other radiosurgery systems?

  1. Unprecedented Targeting Accuracy – Many tumors have proven to move during treatment delivery - even when the patient is immobilized. Using advanced robotic technology and the ability to track tumor motion throughout the treatment, the CyberKnife System can deliver radiation with extreme accuracy by automatically correcting for tumor movement in real-time. Where other technologies rely on static images taken just prior to treatment, the CyberKnife System automatically tracks, detects, and corrects for even the slightest motion that might occur throughout treatment delivery.
  2. Unrivaled Conformality and Dose Gradient – Unconstrained by the clockwise / counterclockwise rotations of conventional radiotherapy systems, the robotic mobility of the CyberKnife System enables beams to be delivered from a very wide array of unique angles.  By approaching the target from hundreds of different directions, the CyberKnife System sculpts delivered dose precisely to the unique contours of the target while limiting exposure to surrounding critical structures.
  3. Unparalleled Healthy Tissue Sparing – As the only system capable of delivering beams that move in real-tie with 3D respiratory motion, the CyberKnife System significantly reduces the treatment margins commonplace with other radiation delivery systems.  With smaller treatment margins, the CyberKnife System focuses the prescribed dose to the intended target – not the surrounding healthy tissue.

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