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'Miracle machine' doesn't take the good with the bad

At 1:15 p.m., every day, Donald Shorkey is greeted by the miracle machine.

At least that's what Shorkey calls the machine that shoots radiation beams into his prostate on a daily basis as part of his cancer treatment.

"It's a miracle machine in that I think that the good Lord gave these gentlemen the knowledge to create this thing," the 71-year-old Troy resident said.

The machine Shorkey speaks so highly of is called Radiarc, and it is designed to cure cancerous cells in only the exact location within a person's body they exist, avoiding healthy cells in nearby tissues.

Shorkey receives his treatment at Community Care Physicians in Latham, a clinic that owns and operates one of only six Radiarcs in the world.

At face value, the machine's purpose seems simple, but according to radiation oncologist and director of image-guided radiation therapy at Community Care Physicians Arun Puranik, avoiding radiation in surrounding tissues could prevent damage to other parts of a patient's body.

Puranik calls this "organ preservation."

A CAT scan is completed once a patient begins treatment. Every time that patient comes in for treatment, a new scan is taken and digitally compared with the original scan. The technician then matches up the scans to pinpoint the area that needs to be treated. Radiarc then rotates in 360 degrees around the patient's body, reaching the area that needs to be treated from all angles possibly, but excluding the tissues that do not need to receive radiation.

According to manager of Community Care Physicians Bob Desjardins, the number of angles at which the radiation reaches the patient is one of the most remarkable aspects of the machine, as those typically used only treat from seven angles.

Another thing Radiarc takes into account is the movement of organs that are being treated in the body.

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