SMH Adds High-Dose Rate Brachytherapy to Specialized Therapies Available at Brian D. Jellison Cancer Institute

SMH News

NOVEMBER 17, 2022

Sarasota Memorial Health Care System is adding a new cancer-fighting technique – high-dose-rate brachytherapy — to the advanced treatment options available at the Brian D. Jellison Cancer Institute.

Previous techniques include continuous low-dose brachytherapy that places radioactive seeds inside the body for extended periods of time, requiring patients to remain hospitalized and isolated, often for days, while completing a treatment; in the case of prostate cancer, radioactive seeds often are permanently implanted in the body.

That continuous low-dose technique is being replaced with high-dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy, a newer, accelerated treatment that allows physicians to deliver equivalent doses of radiation in as little as one to four outpatient treatments that last just a few minutes each. Unlike older techniques, the radioactive source is removed after each session, allowing patients to go home the same day and safely be around others, including children and pregnant women.

“For people with certain cancers, HDR brachytherapy offers a shorter yet more effective option because it uses computerized 3D imaging and a robotic device, or afterloader, to precisely place the radioactive source within the tumor or at-risk tissue and deliver radiation therapy,” said Kunal Saigal, MD, who oversees radiation oncology services at Sarasota Memorial’s Brian D. Jellison Cancer Institute. “The highly-targeted, highly-controlled process allows us to individualize treatment plans based on each patient’s unique tumor and anatomy and radiate the cancer cells while reducing exposure to surrounding healthy tissues and organs.”

HDR brachytherapy has demonstrated superior outcomes for several types of cancer, including uterine (endometrial) and prostate cancers, Saigal said. Many women who have had surgery to remove endometrial cancer can reduce their risk of recurrence with four brief outpatient treatments, while early-stage prostate cancers can be treated in as little as two sessions, he said. For more advanced tumors, brachytherapy can be combined with external beam radiation therapy to optimize treatment outcomes by delivering more effective doses of radiation therapy to the tumor.

Dr. Saigal and radiation oncologist Matthew Biagioli, MD, both fellowship trained in brachytherapy, will administer the HDR treatments in the Jellison Cancer Institute brachytherapy suite on the SMH-Sarasota campus.

Learn More
HDR brachytherapy is covered by most insurance plans. To learn more about HDR brachytherapy, listen to this week’s podcast with Dr. Biagioli at or subscribe to SMH HealthCasts on your favorite streaming app.

For more information or help with physician referrals, call Sarasota Memorial’s HealthLine at 941-917-7777.

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