New body-tracking technology installed at Peter Mac is doing away with the need for tiny tattoos on patients receiving radiotherapy.

Dots are tattooed onto the skin to help target this treatment and, while barely noticeable, for patients these dots can be a permanent reminder of their cancer.

Latest technology now operational on one of Peter Mac’s radiotherapy treatment machines instead tracks thousands of existing points on the patient’s skin.

Radiotherapy Clinical Coordinator Kenton Thompson said “these act as virtual tattoos and allow for real-time, accurate tracking of the patient position during setup and radiotherapy”.

"This technology allows us to track and understand, with pinpoint accuracy, where the patient is positioned on our linac treatment couch, not just from day to day but also whilst each treatment is being delivered."

Not only does it do away with the need for tattoos, the AlignRT Advance Surface Guided Radiation Therapy system, made by Vision RT, speeds up the process of positioning patients for treatment.

And if the patient moves, the technology will pause treatment and alert a radiation therapist.

One of three devices installed on the ceiling of the radiotherapy bunker which tracks the patient's body position, part of the AlignRT Advance Surface Guided Radiation Therapy system.
One of three devices installed on the ceiling of the radiotherapy bunker which tracks the patient's body position, part of the AlignRT Advance Surface Guided Radiation Therapy system.

Peter Mac’s Director of Radiotherapy Nilgun Touma said this was a “major step forward for the patients’ experience” and praised the skilled workforce that made it possible.

“Our large team of radiation therapists at Peter Mac work hard to improve outcomes for our patients,” Ms Touma said.

“They are continually learning and implementing new technologies and techniques to improve the patient experience.”

“We want to take this opportunity to thank our radiation therapy workforce for all they do!”

This is National Radiographer and Radiation Therapists’ Week (8 – 14 November) and it encompasses World Radiography Day on 8 November – the date when X-rays were discovered in 1895.

Radiotherapy tattoos will still be required on other treatment machines at Peter Mac however there are plans to introduce AlignRT across all five Peter Mac campuses, expanding the access to this technology.

Peter Mac also has an ongoing research collaboration with Vision RT looking at how the technology can be used to improve treatment of paediatric patients and people with brain tumours.