300 Patients to be Treated Annually Starting in Fall 2005

Toronto (May 23, 2005) - The first Gamma Knife in Ontario arrived at the University Health Network's (UHN) Toronto Western Hospital (TWH) site today. Weighing a 22.5 tonnes, the Gamma Knife was safely hoisted into its new home on the third floor of the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Family Gamma Knife Centre.

As a provincial resource, the Gamma Knife will treat about 300 patients annually for surgically inaccessible arterioveneous malformations, difficult brain tumours, drug-resistant movement disorders, pain and epilepsy. It is expected the Gamma Knife will become operational in September of this year.

"This is an exciting day for the Toronto Western Hospital, and residents of Ontario," said Dr. Catherine Zahn, COO TWH and VP, UHN. "This technology will help to advance patient care and further our research and education initiatives into treatment of patients with neurological conditions."

Also known as stereotactic radiosurgery, the Gamma Knife delivers beams of radiation therapy to targeted areas of the brain. With precision of less than 1 mm, the beams do not damage surrounding normal tissue. Patients receive the single-dose treatment as a day procedure that is non-invasive, safe and more comfortable than conventional surgery and is associated with lower treatment costs.

"The Gamma Knife is an amazing tool," said Dr. Mark Bernstein, TWH Neurosurgeon and Co-Director of the Gamma Knife Centre. "Imagine being able to treat certain difficult tumours and other abnormalities without cutting open the patient's head, and with the same effectiveness and lower risk than surgery."

Due to its massive weight, a Gamma Knife machine is typically located at ground level. However, the desire to provide an integrated care environment at the TWH required design of an innovative facility, resulting in this being the first Gamma Knife in the world to be located three floors above grade. While physically located at the TWH site, the Gamma Knife will be operated as a unique collaboration between the neuroscience, and medical imaging programs at TWH and the radiation medicine program at Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH), one of UHN's three hospitals. Each of these programs are world leaders in their own right, and combined, promise to offer state-of-the-art care for Ontarians.

"This is a very exciting time for neuroscience and radiotherapy," said Dr. Cynthia Menard, Radiation Oncologist and Co-Director of the Gamma Knife Program, Princess Margaret Hospital. "The Gamma Knife radiosurgery program will complement the neuroscience program, radiation medicine program and advanced neuroimaging techniques available in Toronto and will be delivered in collaboration with the other neuroscience programs at the University of Toronto affiliated hospitals."

The $7 million capital cost of purchasing the Leksell Gamma Knife and construction of the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Family Gamma Knife Centre were funded through the generous support and commitment of $3.5 million in matching funds from an anonymous donor, Joey and Toby Tanenbaum, and other donors. The Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has committed $1.1 million of annual funding towards the Gamma Knife's operating costs, with UHN providing the remaining $400,000 of annual operating costs.

About Toronto Western Hospital

Home to the Krembil Neuroscience Centre, one of the largest combined clinical and research neurological facilities in North America, the Toronto Western Hospital also offers a community and population health program and expertise in musculoskeletal health and arthritis. Princess Margaret Hospital and its research arm, Ontario Cancer Institute, have achieved an international reputation as global leaders in the fight against cancer. Princess Margaret Hospital and the Toronto Western Hospital are members of the University Health Network, which also includes Toronto General Hospital. All three are teaching hospitals affiliated with the University of Toronto.

Media Contact

Phone: 416 340 4636
Email: UHN.News@uhn.ca

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