Radiation therapy is a highly effective treatment modality for patients with cancer. Used alone, or in combination with other approaches like surgery or chemotherapy, it can cure many patients and control tumours to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.
We provide consultations for patients with all types of cancer, recommend treatment approaches, deliver safe and effective radiation treatments and offer ongoing follow-up care.
Our team is organized into cancer Site Groups that have developed treatment protocols based on research evidence. These protocols guide decisions on the role, indications and benefits of radiation therapy in specific, individual circumstances.
Our specialized programs are:
On this page: QuickStart Program
QuickStart offers women with early-stage breast cancer expedited treatment planning and delivery of the first radiation treatment in one day. Patients receive the same quality and effective radiation treatment without the unnecessary waits, and avoid potential negative impacts to their treatment experience and outcomes.
On this page: Oligometastases Program
Oligometastases is the presence of metastatic disease that is limited in number and location. Selected patients may achieve improved survival after aggressive minimally invasive local treatment, such as radiosurgery, high-dose radiotherapy, and surgery.
On this page: Palliative Radiation Oncology Program
Palliative radiotherapy is an important tool for managing cancer-related symptoms. It can provide rapid pain relief and defer or prevent complications from metastatic disease, allowing preservation of quality of life.
On this page: Pediatric Radiation Therapy Program
Radiation therapy remains a critical type of therapy for children with cancer. Its uses include local control of the primary tumour, prophylactic radiation of the brain in patients with high-risk leukemia, radiation of the lungs when there are metastases to the lungs, and total body irradiation in patients undergoing bone marrow transplants.
Our specialized radiation approaches include:
On this page: Brachytherapy Program
Brachytherapy is the implantation of radioactive sources, usually in the form of needles, seeds or wires, directly into a tumour. Brachytherapy may be used as the sole form of radiotherapy or may be combined with external radiation.
On this page: Stereotactic Radiation Therapy Program
Stereotactic radiation therapy is a very precise type of radiation treatment delivery, usually requiring an external frame of reference, such as a head frame for intracranial disease. This method permits accurate delivery of high doses in a few fractions to a small, conformed tumour volume.
On this page: Gamma Knife Radiosurgery
Housed at Toronto Western Hospital, the Gamma Knife Centre is the only one of its kind in Ontario. As a unique collaboration between Neuroscience, Medical Imaging and the Princess Margaret Radiation Medicine programs, this state-of-the-art radiosurgical treatment is available to people with benign tumours and other medical conditions. A second Gamma Knife Perfexion unit at the Princess Margaret is used to treat brain metastases.
Whole breast radiation therapy is a standard treatment option for women with breast cancer following breast conserving surgery. On an annual basis, this treatment accounts for more than 60 per cent of all breast cancer patients treated at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. With increasing rates of breast cancer and greater use of advanced, yet time-consuming planning methods, the hospital needed an innovative, efficient approach to treat patients and prevent delays.
Implemented in January 2010, the QuickStart program brings together technological advances in software with clinical expertise to expedite scans, treatment planning and delivery of the first treatment, all within one day. It is now a treatment option offered to women with early-stage breast cancer.
For patients who have experienced delays in their cancer journey prior to radiation therapy, having an expedited radiation therapy treatment process avoids potential negative impacts to their treatment outcomes. The QuickStart program offers breast patients the same quality and effective RT treatment without the unnecessary waits.
Patients may be referred to one of the radiation oncologists in the Breast Site Group either through the departmental referral process or by contacting one of the physicians directly.
See how to refer a patient to the Breast Site Group »
Radiation Oncology Lead: Anne Koch
Radiation Physics Lead: Tom Purdie
Radiation Therapy Lead: Michelle Chan
Coordinator: Mary Gong
416 946 4501 ext. 3639
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The Radiation Medicine Program is a major contributor to the multidisciplinary Princess Margaret Oligometastases Program and is dedicated to refining the optimal radiotherapeutic technique, patient selection and evaluation of long-term outcomes for the treatment of patients with oligometastases.
The technical and toxicity consideration for the treatment of oligometastases depends strongly on the site of metastases. The clinical relevance of aggressive treatment of oligometastases hinges on the natural history of the site of origin. The biological potential for sterilizing the metastases is a complex interaction between radiosensitivity, tumour burden, dose-limiting structures and biological dose.
The Oligometastases team brings together expertise across clinical sites to provide the best treatment options for our patients.
Patients can be referred by contacting the lead physician or the team coordinator.
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Palliative Radiation Oncology Program
The Princess Margaret Palliative Radiation Oncology Program offers rapid turnaround for patients with a wide array of cancer-related symptoms, including tumour-related bleeding, that require palliative radiation treatment. The program aims to see and initiate treatment for patients within 48 hours of referral, more quickly if necessary.
Radiation therapy can palliate bleeding from many cancers such as lung, head and neck, esophagus, stomach, bladder, cervix, uterus, rectum, anal canal and subcutaneous masses (e.g. from highly vascular melanomas or renal cell cancers).
Patients can be referred by contacting the lead physician or the team coordinator. After-hours referrals can be readily obtained by contacting the radiation oncologist on call through the Princess Margaret switchboard at 416 946 2000.
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Pediatric Radiation Therapy Program
Princess Margaret offers specialized, pediatric radiation for children with cancer. Our group treats children with Wilm’s tumour, brain tumours, neuroblastomas, leukemia, Hodgkin’s Disease and sarcomas.
We use radiation treatment for local control of the primary tumour, prophylactic radiation of the brain in patients with high-risk leukemia, radiation of the lungs in cases of lung metastases and total body irradiation in patients undergoing bone marrow transplants.
In some cases, radiation can provide improved outcomes for pediatric patients who might otherwise require radical surgery.
As a partner with the Hospital for Sick Children, the Princess Margaret participates in numerous Children’s Oncology Group clinical and biologic trials.
For more information about our partnership with the Hospital for Sick Children, see Children's Oncology Group [opens in new window] »
Patients may be referred to one of the radiation oncologists in the Site Group either through the departmental referral process or by contacting one of the physicians directly.
Learn how to refer a patient to a radiation oncologist through the departmental referral process »
Radiation Site Group Lead: David Hodgson
Radiation Physics Lead: Fred Cheung
Radiation Therapy Lead: Tatiana Ritchie
Coordinator: Susan Awrey
416 946 6594
Patients may be referred by contacting the appropriate Site Group.
See the list of radiation oncologists for each site group »
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The Princess Margaret Brachytherapy Program delivers brachytherapy using a number of methods for both inpatients and outpatients. We can provide high-dose, slow continuous or intermittent/pulsed radiation. Slow continuous and intermittent/pulsed radiation require hospital admission, while high-dose rate techniques are done on an outpatient basis.
Brachytherapy is most effective in cancers of the prostate, cervix and uterus, as well as in esophageal, lung and penile cancer. This very effective high-dose conformal radiation approach spares healthy tissue.
The two primary methods for delivering brachytherapy are interstitial and intracavitary. Interstitial brachytherapy involves the implantation of radioactive sources directly into a tumour, usually in the form of needles, seeds or wires.
Intracavitary brachytherapy involves placing a small radiation source directly into a natural body cavity. This method is effective for delivering very localized radiation to small tumours that have not spread, or for delivering an additional dose of radiation to a small volume at high risk for recurrence.
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Stereotactic Radiation Therapy Program
Stereotactic radiation therapy is commonly used to manage cancers within the head and increasingly in other locations in the body, such as the spine, lungs and liver. It can offer an alternative to surgery where there may be a significant likelihood of morbidity with surgery. Stereotactic radiation is also useful in increasing tumour control rates for selected patients with metastases.
In addition to the ability to precisely deliver high-dose radiation to the tumour, this type of radiation significantly spares normal tissues, significantly reducing the likelihood of acute or long-term effects.
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Gamma Knife Radiosurgery
Gamma knife radiosurgery is a sophisticated radiation tool known worldwide for its precise treatment to targeted areas of the brain.
In a single treatment session, 201 beams of gamma radiation can focus with a precision of less than 1 mm. The exposure is brief and only the tissue being treated receives the radiation dose, while the surrounding tissue remains unharmed.
Since gamma knife radiosurgery is performed without incisions or general anesthesia, many of the usual risks associated with conventional neurosurgery, such as neurological deficit, infection and bleeding, are reduced.
Patients are discharged from the Gamma Knife Centre on the day of treatment and are usually able to return to their normal activities within 72 hours.
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