Radiation Oncology Department
The Radiation Oncology Department at Sheba Medical Center is the largest of its kind in Israel. At this state-of-the-art unit, we use radiation therapy (high-energy rays) as an effective weapon to fight cancer. Radiotherapy is often used in tandem with other treatments, such as chemotherapy and surgery.
At Sheba, we offer a full range of modern radiotherapy technologies, such as robotics, 3D imaging, and precise targeting techniques, all set within a friendly, patient-centric atmosphere. Experts provide top-tier therapies along with pain management and nutritional guidance. We are committed to advancing innovative treatments to improve cancer care and reduce the side effects experienced by patients. At our Radiation Oncology Department, we treat more than 3,000 patients every year, about 240 patients per day.
The Cancer Center
The Radiation Oncology Department is a part of the Cancer Center at Sheba, the leading center for cancer treatment in Israel. We treat approximately 4,500 new patients at the Cancer Center annually, providing the most effective multidisciplinary, personalized care for each patient.
The following departments are all located within the Cancer Center:
- Riva Koschitzky Oncology Clinical Research Unit
- Ella Lemelbaum Institute for Immuno-Oncology
- Meirav Breast Cancer Center
- Radiation Oncology Department
- Sheba Pancreatic Cancer Center – SPCC
What types of cancer do we treat?
The types of cancer treated by radiotherapy at Sheba include:
What special treatments do we provide?
Linear Accelerator – The Novalis System
At Sheba, we use the revolutionary Novalis system developed by BrainLab, a state-of-the-art accelerator that is equipped with a smart robotic system. The advanced real-time tracking system is located both on the floor and ceiling of the accelerator room and can monitor slight variations in the patient’s anatomy. It then uses this data to rotate the accelerator, allowing the aim to be corrected with the aid of a robotic bed. This system enables perfect targeting that delivers radiation with an accuracy of about half a millimeter, making the Novalis a premier method of radiation therapy.
The Novalis system is considered to be a superior system for performing spinal radiosurgery, which demands sophisticated equipment and expert skill. Treatments that were previously considered high-risk can now be done by experienced specialists, with a greater freedom and intensity.
The Novalis has also been used at Sheba to perform radiosurgery on the lungs and liver, and the implementation of this system at Sheba to treat prostate cancer is being planned.
Novel Prostate Cancer Treatment
At Sheba, we custom design each treatment program for prostate cancer by performing a comprehensive evaluation that takes into account the location and stage of the tumor, the level of risk with regard to cancer biology, and the patient’s overall health and quality of life.
Advanced imaging techniques have led to significant improvements in prostate cancer treatments, most notably MRI and PET with PSMA. By using these techniques, we are able to better pinpoint the location of a prostate tumor and identify small metastases that are still curable. Additionally, the use of new and unique technologies at Sheba enables more precise, safer and shorter radiation therapy sessions, such as:
- Ablative stereotactic radiation (SBRT), which involves a particularly high dose of radiation, is administered in order to lower the number of required treatments. For example, instead of about 50 sessions, only five radiotherapy sessions are needed.
- Brachytherapy uses internal radiation to eradicate cancer, generally in the form of implanted radioactive pellets or beads. Maximum therapy can be delivered without the need to penetrate healthy tissue. Sheba is one of only a handful of medical institutions that offer this progressive therapy.
- A gel is inserted into a thin membrane that separates the prostate from the rectum, thereby allowing radiation to be delivered without exposing the intestine to a high dose of damaging radiation.
- Gold grains are implanted in the prostate, helping to properly focus radiation beams.
Targeted repeat radiation therapy is offered, when necessary, with enhanced protection for nearby organs.
This innovative technology involves delivering radiation during surgery, instead of delivered radiation before or after surgery. The goal is to attack the tumor with full force and maximum accuracy, in order to prevent recurrence. Presently, several devices are available in Israel to perform intraoperative radiotherapy on small breast tumors.
At Sheba, a more advanced powerful accelerator technology is used, which propels electrons (not X-rays) deeper into body tissue, where it can irradiate large tumors in the abdomen, pelvis and other organs – with minimal exposure to surrounding healthy tissue and organs. The accelerator is mounted on a mobile platform with a robotic arm, which helps direct the radiation to the depth of the surgical incision. From July 2019 to February 2020, more than 50 surgeries were performed at Sheba using this portable accelerator.
SBRT for Lung, Abdominal, Pelvic and Spinal Tumors
SBRT – stereotactic body radiation therapy – is a highly precise, focused radiation technique administered in high doses. The uniqueness of this method is that it compensates for body movements while breathing, thereby promoting extreme accuracy. Healthy tissues around the tumor are protected, and the success of treatment without side effects is improved. In order to custom design each SBRT session, CT scans are used in 4D, which maps out the movement of the tumor as each breath is taken.
RPM – Advanced Breath-adapted Radiation for Breast Cancer
Radiation therapy is typically recommended after a diagnosis of breast cancer. However, since the heart can be very close to the chest wall, radiation poses cardiac risks. However, deep breathing during radiotherapy sessions can actually move the heart away from the treatment field by about 1.5 cm, creating a protective buffer zone. The RPM system synchronizes the delivery of radiation with the patient’s respiration. This cutting-edge technology is available at Sheba, where a device made by Varian is used to closely monitor the patient’s breathing.
Advanced Radiation for Breast Cancer – Partial Breast Radiation
The technique of partial radiation of the breast (targeted to the tumor bed after surgery) has been increasing in use in recent years. With this method, higher doses of radiation can be administered, and the intense treatment can be done twice a day for five days. Typically, it is most suitable after surgical removal of a 2-3cm tumor.
Partial radiation can be given externally via linear accelerators, or internally via insertion of a catheter into the surgical area. Another option is to use brachytherapy to deliver partial radiation to the breast.
IMRT – Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy
This specialized technology can be used for various cancers, including gynecological tumors, head and neck tumors. IMRT uses computerized control to produce radiation doses that adhere to the tumor with maximum accuracy. When the computer detects that a particular sub-beam poses risk to a vital organ, it can reduce the density of photons in that sub-beam of the radiation field. On the flipside, when a visible target is identified and there is no vital organ in the way, the maximum passage of photons can be allowed. The Rapid Arc method of IMRT shortens the treatment to just a few minutes, enhancing patient comfort.
The conventional method of irradiating brain tumors involved the use of a metal frame to secure the patient’s head. While this frame eliminated patient movement and avoided targeting healthy brain tissue, the setup was generally painful. Nowadays at Sheba, instead of the frame, a comfortable thermoplastic mask is attached to the bed and used along with the Novalis treatment system to target the tumor with high precision.
The Department Manager
Prof. Zvi Symon, MD
Director, Radiation Oncology Department
Prof. Symon completed his medical degree and specialization in Internal Medicine at the Hadassah Medical School at Hebrew University, Jerusalem. He then specialized in oncology and radiotherapy at the Hadassah Hospital and at Sheba Medical Center. He completed his fellowship in radiation oncology, with a focus on brachytherapy for prostate cancer and gynecological tumors. A leading physician, Prof. Symon has published over 90 papers and articles in scientific journals.
Yaacov Lawrence, MD
Director, Center for Translational Radiation Oncology
Dr. Lawrence, M.A.; M.B.B.S.; M.R.C.P. (MD equivalent), is a senior physician in the Radiation Oncology Department and Director of the Center for Translational Radiation Oncology. He is a world-renowned specialist in translational radiation oncology and specializes in radiation treatments for lung, gastrointestinal and brain tumors. Dr. Lawrence has received numerous grants and funding, and he has published dozens of articles in medical literature. He attended the University College of London Hospital, UK, and the Royal College of Physicians in London. Dr. Lawrence completed his residency in radiation oncology at Sheba Medical Center, as well as a fellowship at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, PA, USA.
Shira Felder, MD
Head of the Gynecologic Oncology Service at the Radiation Oncology Department
Dr. Felder is a highly respected expert in all forms of brachytherapy for gynecologic tumors, including intra-cavity, intravaginal and interstitial brachytherapy. In particular, her clinical interests include gynecologic tumors, brachytherapy, and urinary tract tumors. She received her medical degree from Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem, and completed a clinical research fellowship in radiotherapy and brachytherapy for gynecologic tumors at the Princess Margaret Cancer Center, Toronto, Canada.
Sarit Appel, MD
Radiation Oncologist at the Radiation Oncology Department
Dr. Appel specializes in lung tumors, SBRT for lung cancer, and head and neck cancer. She graduated from the Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, in 2002, and completed her specialization in radiation oncology at Sheba.
Leor Zach, MD
Senior Physician at the Radiation Oncology Department
Dr. Zach, a specialist in clinical oncology and radiotherapy, received his medical degree from the Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, and completed his fellowship at the Radiation Oncology Branch of the National Cancer Institute (NIH) in Bethesda, MD, USA. His particular field of interest was imaging applications for brain and spinal cord malignancies, and his current focus is on the treatment of tumors and metastasis of the central nervous system. He is the recipient of several prestigious awards and fellowships.
Holistic Health – We Care for the Whole Patient
Our entire Sheba team joins to offer an integrative approach that reflects a unique blend of compassion and medical expertise. When we provide radiation therapy, we don’t treat the cancer exclusively. Rather we focus on ways to increase each patient’s quality of life and overall well-being. Patient-centric therapies include access to all support services, including psychologists, nutritionists, and social work services. To make the patient experience as efficient and comfortable as possible, all services are provided conveniently on-site on our vast campus.