Patient listening to music in the MR-Linac machine A patient being treated in the MRI-guided linear accelerator Patient receiving treatment in the MR-Linac supervised by two staff

Austin Health is the only public hospital in Victoria with an MR-Linear accelerator (or MR-Linac), the machine used for this form of therapy. You may come to the ONJ Centre for MRI-guided radiation therapy, even if you receive other treatments for cancer elsewhere.

Our MRI-guided radiation therapy service is opening in June 2021.

What is an MR-Linac?

About 50 per cent of cancer patients need radiation therapy. Radiation therapy aims to kill cancer cells by delivering radiation to the tumour.

Conventional radiation therapy technology uses x-rays to identify and target a tumour. It can be difficult to differentiate a tumour from the surrounding healthy tissue.  

The MR-Linac can take MRI scans before and while delivering radiation therapy to improve treatment. 

MRI scans provide high quality images. We can see different tissues in the body, and where a tumour ends and normal tissue begins. This allows us to better aim the radiation at the tumour and avoid healthy tissue.

The treatment team can customise radiation therapy based on:

  • The anatomy of the tumour on the day
  • How the tumour moves during treatment

This can result in improved tumour control, less side effects and fewer treatments.

How does it work?

We take MRI scans during treatment. This provides real-time imaging of your tumour and surrounding tissues and organs. We can see the exact position of your tumour so we can adjust radiation therapy during treatment.

 

What are the benefits?

Accuracy and tailored treatment

We take MRI scans during treatment which show the exact position and shape of the tumour. This allows us to target the tumour with precision. We can also adapt the radiation therapy plan to the anatomy of the day.

Avoiding healthy tissue damage

The machine can target a tumour more precisely and protect healthy tissue by treating a smaller area.  

Greater control of the tumour

We can better control the tumour because we can deliver higher doses of radiation.

Fewer treatments

By giving higher doses of radiation, patients may only need 2-5 treatments. Conventional radiation therapy generally needs several weeks of treatments.  

Ideal for hard-to-treat cancers

The machine is ideal for cancers that are difficult to treat. For example, cancers in organs where it is vital to preserve healthy tissue or in locations that move a lot.

Greater understanding of tumour biology

MRI scans taken before treatment help us see how the tumour is responding.

What cancers does it treat?

It is ideal for tumours that are near major organs where it is important to limit damage to healthy tissue. 

It is also ideal for tumours near organs that move a lot. For example, the upper abdomen that moves with gut motion or breathing.

The MR-Linac treats many cancers including of the lungs, liver, pancreas, and prostate. 

Because of its accuracy, it can treat metastases where cancer has spread to other parts of the body. It can also treat areas that have already had radiation therapy.

What does treatment involve?

First we will take planning CT and MRI scans.

Before each treatment, we take an MRI scan on the machine to see the position of the anatomy that day.

We develop the radiation therapy plan and deliver treatment at the same time as we take more MRIs. This helps us detect tumour movements so we can make any necessary adjustments.

We take another MRI at the end of treatment to confirm the delivery.

Take a virtual tour of our radiation oncology facilities.

How long does treatment take?

Each treatment generally takes 40 to 60 minutes.

What happens after treatment?

The ONJ Centre provides treatment on behalf of other health services across Victoria. 

Your usual doctor will provide ongoing care and support. 

The ONJ Centre team will keep in touch with you and your usual doctor to track outcomes.

Referrals

We will commence treating patients in June 2021.

We will provide detailed information for referrers soon.

Research

We are actively involved in a number of clinical trials. These trials are a very important element of the service at The ONJ Centre. Find out more about our Radiation Oncology research.