Our Program

Our Program

Radiation Oncology at USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center offers a full-service radiation therapy program that treats a broad range of cancers, from highly complex lesions to more commonly diagnosed tumors. Our highly trained physicians use the most advanced technologies to provide exceptional treatment and achieve improved cancer-control outcomes with the utmost safety assurance in mind. Unlike at most other institutions where generalist radiation oncologists treat all conditions, our specialists at USC each have expertise in specific types of cancer and focus their work on those cancers, providing unrivaled expertise in the specifics of your disease.

The USC Radiation Oncology Program offers a broad spectrum of advanced radiotherapy care to patients with cancer, including:

  • 3-D conformal radiotherapy (3-D CRT)
  • Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT)
  • Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT)
  • CyberKnife Stereotactic Radiosurgery
  • Gamma Knife Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS) to the brain
  • Clinical brachytherapy utilizing high dose-rate (HDR)
  • Episcleral eye plaque brachytherapy
  • RapidArc or VMAT treatment delivery
  • Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT) to multiple disease sites

We use breakthrough technology including robotic surgical systems and advanced image-guidance that can allow us to treat tumors previously thought to be inoperable. Our Gamma Knife Perfexion® sets the bar for treatment of complex brain tumors, brain metastases and other neurological conditions. Our physicians can deliver a highly focused dose of radiation to precise targets in the brain in one treatment session using the Gamma Knife®. For stereotactic radiosurgery, we have access to both the CyberKnife® and the TrueBeam™ STx machine, offering the potential for a safe, noninvasive treatment of tumors virtually anywhere in the body.

Our combination of equipment — available only at Keck Medical Center of USC in Southern California— allows USC radiation oncologists and referring physicians to choose the most appropriate treatment for individual patients, rather than choosing the only treatment available.

Our Approach

We embrace patient involvement and engagement, and seek to help you learn about your disease status and the effectiveness of different advanced technologies. Our goal is to intervene to get the disease under control, change its course and determine how we can diminish symptoms.

At USC Norris, you have the advantage of receiving care from a coordinated team, and you will receive the latest treatments, see physicians and specialists and benefit from the attention to detail that improves treatment effectiveness and reduces complications. Your integrated team is in constant communication with one other to share new information or advise on your treatment.

Our esteemed physicians are highly trained radiation oncologists who pair their unique expertise with a wide range of state-of-the-art technologies and modalities. We also offer access to some of the most cutting-edge research and clinical trials available today. Taken together, you receive the most individualized treatment for your particular stage and type of cancer. All of your specialists on the team are located in the same campus, making it easy to coordinate your care and provide you with the utmost convenience.

Working behind the scenes at USC Norris is a team of premier physicists and dosimetrists. This team is able to create highly complex treatment plans that maximize dose to tumors while minimizing radiation to healthy tissue. Their expertise sets the bar for radiation treatment and creates a level of care difficult to find elsewhere in the area.

Our radiation therapists, nurses and front desk are also integral to our unwavering dedication to high-quality care and provide a compassionate, safe and comfortable environment that puts our patients first. As the final piece of the team, onsite at USC Norris, we have experts in cancer support services, including nutritionists, genetic counselors, image enhancement specialists, and physical therapists.

Conditions Treated

A number of different conditions can be treated with radiation therapy, including a wide range of cancers. While there are many options for treating cancer, radiation can be a viable alternative that can reduce recovery time and accurately destroy cancerous tissue while sparing healthy tissue. Radiation can be used on its own to treat cancer, and can often be combined with surgery and/or chemotherapy.

These are some of the cancers USC treats with radiation:

Blood cancers include certain cancers of blood cells, including lymphomas and leukemias, or myelomas, which begin in bone marrow cells. Additionally, radiotherapy can be used on bone marrow to kill cancerous cells prior to a patient undergoing a bone marrow transplant.

Breast cancer is cancer that begins in the breast. There are two primary types of breast cancer. Ductal carcinoma starts in the tubes (ducts) that carry milk from the breast to the nipple. Most breast cancers are this type. Lobular carcinoma starts in the parts of the breast, called lobules, which produce milk.

Colorectal cancer is cancer that begins in the colon or rectum. Nearly all colorectal cancers develop from adenomatous polyps, which start as benign growths and can become cancerous.

Genitourinary/Urologic cancer affects the prostate, bladder, kidneys, urinary tract or male reproductive organ.

Gynecological cancer is cancer that starts in a woman’s reproductive organs.

Head and Neck cancer usually begins in the cells that line the moist, mucosal surfaces inside the head and neck (e.g., inside the mouth or throat). These are typically referred to as squamous cell carcinomas. Head and neck cancers can also begin in the salivary glands.

Lung cancer is cancer begins in the lungs. There are two types of lung cancer: non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), the most common type of lung cancer; and small cell lung cancer (SCLC), which makes up about 20 percent of all lung cancer cases.

Neuro-Oncology cancer includes cancers of the brain and spinal cord. Many can be treated with radiation therapy. Learn more about neuro-oncology here.

Sarcoma is a cancer that can develop in the bone or in soft tissue. There are about 50 different kinds of sarcomas. It is more like a family of related diseases, rather than a single disease.

Skin cancers are cancers of the the skin. Some skin cancers are benign, while others, like melanoma, are very deadly and require treatment. Learn more about skin cancers, including basal cell, squamous cell, and melanoma.

Treatments and Services

The Radiation Oncology Center at Keck Medicine of USC in Los Angeles delivers high-quality care, due to a combination of our well-trained faculty, our robust quality and safety assurance program, our medical physicians and access to some of the most advanced technology in the region. Any technique we use is individualized and tailored for each patient and their cancer.

USC is the only facility in Southern California that has all three of the latest stereotactic radiosurgery technologies: the TrueBeam™ STx, Gamma Knife Perfexion®, and Cyberknife®. This allows USC radiation oncologists and referring physicians to choose the most appropriate treatment for individual patients, rather than choosing the only treatment available. We pride ourselves in our ability to provide some of the most advanced care in the region, be it standard radiation spread across multiple weeks, or radiosurgery done over the course of just a few days.

TrueBeam™ STx machine is one of the most advanced delivery platforms available to deliver image-guided noninvasive radiotherapy and stereotactic body radiation therapy. The TrueBeam™ STx’s enhanced real-time imaging tools allow our multidisciplinary oncology team to see the tumor they are about to treat and visualize it throughout the course of treatment. Since beam delivery is synchronized with tumor motion during a patient’s breathing, complex cases can be treated while minimizing dose to the surrounding healthy tissue and critical organs. The TrueBeam™ has very high dose rate modes allowing radiation delivery to a very small space in a very short amount of time. Additional technology we have available include the Brainlab Exactrac system for precise patient positioning, as well as Calypso tracking beacons which can be implanted into a tumor, serving as a real-time GPS system indicating the precise location of the tumor during treatment.

Gamma Knife Perfexion® is the most advanced, completely robotic radiosurgical delivery system. Typically performed in a single outpatient treatment session with conscious sedation, the Gamma Knife® helps patients avoid incision, scarring, and long hospital stays while minimizing surgical complications. The Gamma Knife®, which contains no blade and makes no incision, is exclusively designed for the treatment of malignant and benign brain tumors, vascular malformations and trigeminal neuralgia. As a non-invasive treatment for individuals with well-defined patient profiles, Gamma Knife ®surgery offers a low-risk, safe and cost-effective alternative.

The Gamma Knife Perfexion® combines data from three-dimensional computer imaging studies with a stereotactic head frame to precisely focus radiation. It can destroy, arrest or reduce tumors, cause lesions to deteriorate, close arteriovenous malformations, and alter the conducting pain fibers in cases of trigeminal neuralgia. Learn more about the Gamma Knife®, available at the USC Stereotactic Radiosurgery Center.

CyberKnife® is a robotic delivery system for radiosurgery. CyberKnife® treatment involves no cutting. In fact, the CyberKnife® System was the world’s first robotic radiosurgery system designed to treat tumors throughout the body non-invasively. The CyberKnife® is able to deliver many pencil-shaped beams into a target or tumor. Typically, about 100 very thin pencil-shaped beams are delivered into the target to build up a very concentrated dose of radiation while sparing normal tissues. The CyberKnife® has very high accuracy because of its imaging platform. This is yet another way of delivering very high concentrated doses of radiation into relatively small targets throughout the body.

Designed to treat tumors anywhere in the body with sub-millimeter accuracy, the CyberKnife® tracks the tumor’s position, detects any tumor or patient movement and automatically corrects the treatment delivery. This outpatient procedure does not require anesthesia or invasive stabilizing frames. Most patients experience minimal recovery time and can return to normal activities almost immediately. Visit the USC Stereotactic Radiosurgery Center for more information.

Treatment Techniques:

3D conformational radiotherapy is a type of external beam therapy, involving precise delivery of high-energy x-ray beams to the disease site while protecting normal tissues. 3D conformal radiotherapy uses high-speed computers to extract CT/MRI data, perform three-dimensional calculations, and overlay the data for the radiation oncologist’s and medical physicist’s analysis. This technique allows more accurate treatment.

Brachytherapy is the practice of placing radioactive material (“seeds,” in some cases) inside the body for the purpose of killing cancer cells. In low-dose rate brachytherapy, the radioactive material remains in the patient’s body and delivers radiation to the tumor over several days. High-dose rate brachytherapy delivers a stronger dose of radiation, during one or more treatment sessions. For high-dose therapy, the source of radiation is removed from the patient after each session.

Episcleral plaque brachytherapy is used for patients with ocular melanoma. Before this therapy became available, the only option for melanoma of the eye was for surgical removal of the eye. This advanced technology is not widely available but is very effective for this type of condition. Episcleral eye plaque therapy is intended as an eye-conserving procedure in which a small metallic “plaque” containing sealed radioactive sources is temporarily placed on the eye adjacent to the tumor.

External beam radiotherapy therapies consist of aiming a precise beam of high-energy radiation directly at a tumor or disease site. These techniques do not require invasive surgery and can usually spare healthy tissue.

Intracavitary brachytherapy is commonly used to treat patients with cervical and uterine cancers. Here, a radioactive source (such as cesium-137 or iridium-192) is placed in a surgical or body cavity, near the treatment area. This option delivers high doses of radiation to the tumor while having minimal impact on the surrounding healthy tissue.

Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) is an advanced form of 3D conformal radiotherapy that allows higher and varying doses of radiation to the tumor while sparing healthy surrounding tissue. It is one of the most precise forms of external beam radiation therapy available. IMRT uses hundreds of tiny radiation beam-shaping devices to deliver a single dose of radiation. Instead of first determining the number and angles of beams to be used for the treatment, then using a computer to choose the appropriate doses of radiation, IMRT uses what is known as “inverse treatment planning”. In inverse treatment planning, the radiation oncologist first selects the radiation doses to be administered to the tumor and surrounding tissue. Then, highly sophisticated computer software chooses the appropriate number and angles of beams that will safely deliver the specific doses.

SAVI, Strut Assisted Volume Implant is accelerated partial breast radiation for selected early stage breast cancer patients. It allows women to undergo a very short course of radiation treatment. Normally, whole breast radiation is about six weeks in duration of daily radiation and with the SAVI technique, it can be accomplished in five days through replacement of this device inside the surgical lumpectomy cavity.

Patient Information

The radiation oncology program at Keck Medicine of USC in Los Angeles can determine the most appropriate treatments for you, thanks to a wealth of faculty expertise and the widest range of radiation therapy technology available in the region.

We embrace patient involvement, engagement, and education on what techniques and advanced technologies are available best suited to your goals for your care. Radiation Oncology is very process oriented and involves many different professions, including physics, therapists and dosimetry. We have a world-class team of these clinicians at USC, so you can trust that not only is your physician exceptional, everyone else involved in your care is as well.

Your clinical treatment will vary according to what type of tumor or disease you have, your overall health, what technology is available for your cancer, as well as your concerns and preferences.

TrueBeam® — What to expect
TrueBeam®, the latest in radiotherapy, is patient-friendly down to the shape of the machine. Its shape is visually appealing, and the skin of the machine is shaped and sculpted in such a way to be less intimidating than previous generations of machines. The “vault” our USC TrueBeam® is located in has also been built with your comfort in mind. These machines can be imposing and intimidating and USC has gone through great strides to make our patients comfortable in our treatment rooms.

Before your treatment, your team may order CT scans and X-rays to determine the size and location of your tumor. There are no frames or brackets, although your team may fit part of you with a mold to make sure the targeted area stays still, as well as lay you on a beanbag like cushion. The TrueBeam® rotates around you, delivering a radiation dose from nearly any angle. You probably will need multiple treatments spanning one to eight weeks, although this will depend on your team’s treatment strategy.

Gamma Knife® — What to expect
At the time of treatment, you will be fitted with a stereotactic head frame, which serves as a measuring guide and helps keep your head in a fixed position to assure maximum treatment accuracy. The frame’s external axis is used to determine coordinates for targeting the treatment location. After the frame is attached, you will receive an MRI, CT, or angiographic scan, which your team will use to precisely determine the location and size of your tumor or abnormality.

Your team will tailor radiation dose distribution to conform specifically to the lesion volume. Completing the treatment plan takes one to two hours, depending on the complexity and location of the disease. When the treatment plan is complete, you will be placed on the Gamma Knife® couch and precisely positioned. Next, you are introduced headfirst into the Gamma Knife®, and the procedure begins. You will be treated with 192 sources of Cobalt 60 housed in the Gamma Knife. The 192 single doses of gamma rays converge at the target area and deliver a precise dose that is high enough to destroy the diseased tissue without damaging surrounding healthy tissue.

CyberKnife® — What to expect
The CyberKnife® System does not require you to be fitted with a head frame. In the set-up stage, the radiation therapist will sometimes create a soft mesh mask that is custom-fitted to your face. While wearing the mask, a CT scan will be performed, which will be used by the USC CyberKnife® team to determine the exact size, shape and location of the tumor.

The doctors may choose to deliver the treatment in one session, or stage it over several days. Typically, treatments are completed within five days. For most patients, the CyberKnife® treatment is a completely pain-free experience.

Episcleral Eye Plaque Brachytherapy — What to expect
First, your opthalmic tumor is measured using ultrasound. This is followed by a CT scan, which will indicate the exact size and shape of your eye. Photographic fundus imaging is also incorporated to create a highly accurate 3-D computer model showing the precise location of the tumor. This information allows the treatment team to determine the proper dose rate, dose prescription, and the appropriate plaque and seeds, all of which will facilitate the delivery of a highly conformal dose of radiation to the tumor. While you are under general anesthesia, a device called a “plaque” is attached to the eye. The plaque is about the size of a thumbnail and contains grooves which hold the radioactive seeds. Each seed is approximately a quarter of an inch long and the same diameter as the lead in a number 2 pencil. The seed-loaded plaque is sewn to the eyeball under the top layer of the conjunctiva (the loose connective tissue that covers the white of the eye.) When the plaque is in place it is not visible from the outside, does not interfere with your vision, and seldom causes any discomfort.

The plaque is removed about a week after the initial surgery, and the size of the tumor is measured and monitored periodically.

Our Physicians

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Practicing Locations

USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital
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Specializing In

Radiation Oncology

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Practicing Locations

USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital
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Practicing Locations

Keck Hospital of USC
USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital
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Practicing Locations

Keck Hospital of USC
USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital
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Practicing Locations

Keck Hospital of USC
LAC+USC Medical Center
USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital
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Practicing Locations

LAC+USC Medical Center
USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital
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Practicing Locations

LAC+USC Medical Center
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Practicing Locations

Keck Hospital of USC
LAC+USC Medical Center
USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital
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Practicing Locations

USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital
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Practicing Locations

USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital