Radiation Oncology

Advanced Treatments

Appointment New Patient Appointment or 214-645-8525

A cancer diagnosis can be frightening. At UT Southwestern, patients can take comfort in the experience and expertise each team member brings to help them on their treatment journey.

Our team of experts, which includes radiation oncologists, physicists, dosimetrists, radiation biologists, therapists, nurses, and other clinical staff, are specially trained to treat cancer. In addition,  we work collaboratively with other departments such as surgical oncology, medical oncology, radiology, and pathology to provide each patient the most comprehensive and effective treatment plan possible. Our multidisciplinary approach coupled with the most advanced technology available means our patients have the highest probability for superior treatment outcomes. 

Treatment therapies are chosen based on each patient’s specific cancer and where it’s located. Through computer targeting, each treatment delivers a high dose of radiation precisely to a tumor, which kills cancer cells while sparing surrounding healthy tissue. 

Partnering with Technology - The SAbR Approach

At UT Southwestern, patients have access to stereotactic ablative radiation therapy (SAbR). Proven effective in treating various types of cancer, we now see evidence that SAbR may improve the survival for patients with metastatic disease.

Internal Beam Radiation Therapy

Brachytherapy is internal radiation therapy, which involves a radioactive substance implanted in or near a cancerous tumor to provide direct, targeted treatment. Learn more about brachytherapy.

External Beam (Focused) Radiation Therapy 

The most common type of radiation therapy is external beam radiation therapy (EBRT). During EBRT, a machine, called a linear accelerator, is used to send high-energy rays to the tumor. Because of the precision we use during treatment, we’re able to send higher doses of radiation into the tumor without damaging surrounding healthy tissue.

Due to breathing and digestion, tumors in the body are constantly moving. To compensate for this, we use advanced image-guided systems to allow for that motion. At times, motion-control devices are used as well. 

There are various types of external radiation therapy – all of which are noninvasive and done on an outpatient basis. A patient's radiation oncologist will determine the best course of treatment for the specific cancer and tumor.

Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS)

Our team of physicians and physicists are recognized worldwide as leaders in the use of stereotactic therapies. SRS, first developed to treat brain tumors in a single dose, is a treatment where several high-dose radiation beams enter the body through various angles and intersect at the desired target, which allows for a concentrated dose to reach the tumor while limiting the radiation to nearby healthy tissues. Because of this, a one-time, high-dose application of radiation to a tumor can be used instead of multiple smaller doses typical in standard radiation treatment. 

During SRS treatment, the patient lies on a couch that rotates 180 degrees for maximum targeting. SRS is used to treat brain and spine cancer, some head and neck tumors, as well as certain benign tumors and neurological conditions. Our teams work closely with UT Southwestern Neurosurgery to treat patients at William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital, which houses our Gamma Knife, and CyberKnife, which resides in the Radiation Oncology Building

Stereotactic breast treatment planning. Coronal (anterior to posterior) and sagittal (side) views.

Stereotactic Ablative Radiotherapy (SAbR)/Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT)

SAbR, also known as SBRT, has become a more common treatment that is a particularly robust specialty within our department. Through innovation and clinical testing, clinicians and physicians at UT Southwestern have led its development, which has allowed its safe implementation throughout the field.

SAbR/SBRT is used to treat tumors throughout the body, excluding the brain. Because the technology is so advanced and precise, we can administer a stronger dose of radiation at a time, which means fewer treatments – usually only three to five – and very little healthy tissue receives any radiation. 

As pioneers of this specialty, our faculty offers a specialized training course to other medical professionals seeking to gain proficiency in this treatment mode.

3-D Conformal

Every tumor and patient is different. Using a state-of-the-art computer program, 3-D conformal radiation therapy shapes the radiation beams to match the shape of the tumor. In doing so, we’re able to precisely target the tumor with higher levels of radiation and avoid healthy surrounding tissue. This technique is often used to create a sharp difference between treated and non-treated tissue.

Image-Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT)

Cancer is often a moving target and anatomy and the size and shape of a tumor can change during the course of treatment. To ensure accuracy, our team uses a variety of imaging tools to match the location of tumors at the time of treatment with the planning location. Imaging tests, such as cone-beam CT scans, are performed in the same room as the patient’s treatment, immediately prior to, during treatment, or both.

Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT)

This state-of-the-art treatment is a specialized form of 3-D conformal radiation therapy where we’re able to control the intensity of the radiation beam in multiple small volumes to create precisely conformed dose distribution. The radiation beams may be re-shaped dozens or hundreds of times during treatment, resulting in radiation dose distribution that is “sculpted” in three dimensions. Rather than creating a uniform field of radiation, the radiation is delivered to precisely conform to the actual shape of the tumor, thus sparing healthy tissue.

Volumetric Arc Therapy (VMAT) (Varian’s RapidArc)

VMAT is an advanced form of IMRT that delivers radiation while the gantry is moving. Continuous and coordinated changes in gantry speed, dose rate, and shape of the treatment aperture increase deliver treatment speeds to two to eight times faster than conventional therapy, reducing a typical 10- to 15-minute treatment to less than one minute in some cases. Though it doesn’t reduce the total number of treatments patients require, the duration of each treatment is shorter which makes it more convenient for patients who must undergo multiple treatments. VMAT is particularly useful when delivering radiation near sensitive organs. Prostate and head and neck patients are often candidates for VMAT therapy.