In 2019, M Health Fairview was the first health system in the United States to begin offering GammaTile Therapy, a new approach to treating primary malignant and recurrent brain tumors. GammaTile Therapy is an FDA-cleared, surgically targeted radiation therapy (STaRT™) that is designed to delay and potentially prevent local tumor regrowth for patients with brain tumors immediately after implantation without harming healthy brain tissue. 

GT Medical, the supplier of GammaTiles, recently awarded University of Minnesota Medical School faculty, Clark Chen, MD, PhD, head of the Department of Neurosurgery, Kathryn Dusenbery, MD, head of the Department of Radiation Oncology, and Clara Ferreira, PhD, assistant professor of Radiation Oncology, its “Appreciation of Excellence'' award for their groundbreaking work in recurrent brain tumor treatment.

“The award is more than a thank you—it’s a recognition of the pioneering efforts the University of Minnesota continues to provide by coming together as a multi-departmental team and offering cutting-edge treatment for their patients with brain cancers,” said Kory Thomas, regional sales director at GT Medical. “We, at GT Medical, fully appreciate the clinical investment and courage it takes for these clinicians to believe in a new technology and then actually be the first to implant a device like GammaTile into someone’s brain.” 

The beliefs of Drs. Chen, Dusenbery and Ferreira are already having an impact. Since treating the first patient last year, GammaTile therapy has been used to treat more than 100 brain cancer patients across the country at over 20 different sites. The U of M team alone has treated more than 20 patients using this method—the most of any other site currently implanting GammaTiles where notable success in tumor control has been observed in these patients.

The key to the success of the GammaTile program is innovative collaboration, according to Drs. Ferreira, Dusenbery and Chen. Because distinct expertise is required for different phases of the treatment, Dr. Ferreira said, “GammaTile treatment wouldn’t have been possible without collaboration.” 

Dr. Chen echoed the sentiment, saying, “GammaTile facilitates interdisciplinary collaborative endeavors with imagination beyond standard therapy.” Dr. Chen is currently working with GT Medical to develop new clinical trials that will test and identify ideal combinations of treatments for GammaTile therapy. The use of GammaTile therapy still relies heavily on combined therapy; and, GammaTile will not be curative for all brain tumor patients. Dr. Dusenbery noted, “It is another tool in our toolbox. Not the be-all, end-all. But, another tool.”

According to Dr. Chen, the ultimate goal is to “achieve a genuine difference in survival and the quality of life for brain tumor patients.” 

He said, “The University of Minnesota provides a uniquely collaborative environment motivated by the desire to surpass the standard of care—to cure the incurable. Here, we continue to innovative care toward that reality. GammaTiles is the fruit of that labor."