Fighting GYN Cancer with Marie Curie-era Treatment and Modern Imaging

Dr. Kate Castle Provides Unique Procedure at Breast & GYN Cancer Pavilion

Few people appreciate modern medicine as often as Dr. Kate Castle, a radiation oncologist with Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center. She sees an average of 25 patients at the Breast & GYN Pavilion each month, some with more advanced or challenging breast or gynecologic cancers.

So it may have come as a surprise when Dr. Castle recommended one of the oldest forms of cancer therapy for a patient with stage 1 gynecologic cancer.

“Brachytherapy, or putting radioactive sources directly into the tissue, has been used to treat cancer for ages. Conceptually, it goes back to the days of Marie Curie, and we still perform brachytherapy today because it works,” said Dr. Castle.

“Now with more advanced treatment delivery systems, we can combine brachytherapy with 3D imaging like MRIs, which lets us target the tumor more precisely, further increasing brachytherapy’s effectiveness while reducing side effects.”

Today, the MD Anderson-trained radiation oncologist is one of the only physicians in the area who performs interstitial brachytherapy, an intricate surgery that places radiation treatment applicators as close to the tumor as possible in preparation for the delivery of high-dose rate radiation. This spares more surrounding tissue and organs from radiation, essentially delivering radiation from the inside out and keeping it from passing through normal healthy tissue to reach the cancer.

The unique surgery depends on the size of the tumor as well as its location. And because of the time and players involved in not only the procedure’s planning process, but also its many different parts, few radiation oncologists continue to perform this procedure.

“This requires intense teamwork,” said Dr. Castle.

Along with a team of physicists, the procedure requires Dr. Castle to carefully collaborate with experts in radiology, anesthesia, surgery, and nursing – all of whom see patients at the bedside to deliver maximum care and comfort while ensuring utmost privacy.

“Woman’s Hospital has expertise in gynecologic issues that you can’t find anywhere else in this area, and the Cancer Center has the most highly trained physicists and oncologists,” said Dr. Castle. “Women with breast and gynecologic cancer deserve to be treated by a team that combines Woman’s strengths with the Cancer Center’s expertise and technology.”