Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Brooke McMichael, left, a radiation therapist at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee, works with another radiation therapist, Becca Kocher, to help Paula Wendt, a patient from Fond du Lac, get positioned in the new Elekta Unity MR-linac system prior to radiation treatment. McMichael, formerly Brooke Hoppe, is a Marinette native.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Brooke McMichael, left, a radiation therapist at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee, works with another radiation therapist, Becca Kocher, to help Paula Wendt, a patient from Fond du Lac, get positioned in the new Elekta Unity MR-linac system prior to radiation treatment. McMichael, formerly Brooke Hoppe, is a Marinette native.

 MILWAUKEE — New cutting edge medical technology intended to pinpoint cancer radiation treatment to tumors and reduce the impact to healthy tissue has been introduced at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee, one of only two hospitals in the country to offer the services.

One of the four people trained to use this new technology, called Elekta Unity MR-linac, is Marinette native Brooke McMichael.

McMichael, a radiation therapist, traveled twice to England to learn how to use the new device, which links magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with a photon beam to pinpoint cancer treatment.

“We try to avoid the healthy tissue as much as possible,” McMichael said Wednesday. Radiation treatment has progressed to become more and more site specific, but it can’t always predict when and where a patient will move during treatment. Standard treatment involves using CT scans or X-ray in advance of radiation to locate the tumor margins.

The new technology allows the radiation therapist to watch the patient inside and out during treatment.

It was not possible in the past, because of the magnetic properties of the MRI and all the metal of a linear accelerator.

McMichael, who also is trained to use the linear accelerator, said this advancement was not even on the radar when she went to school for radiation therapy.

“It’s so exciting,” she said. “These worlds have never collided.”

The 2001 Marinette High School graduate went on to University of Wisconsin-La Crosse to earn her bachelor degree in science, majoring in radiation therapy. She interned at Froedtert, where she has worked for five years.

“This is huge,” she said of the new technology. “It’s a really big advancement. It’s crazy to see how much motion is going on when someone is being treated.”

Planning for treatment involves using “generous margins to account for movement,” she said. But this technology tracks movement on a whole new level.

It’s not just an occasional cough or tickle, she said, but internal organs that are constantly in motion. By watching the body on an MRI, “I can pause or remove (the radiation),” she said. It also allows a therapist to increase dosage because it is sent to a defined area.

The new technology is only available at Froedtert and MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

McMichael and her coworkers traveled to an area just outside of London, where the new technology was already in place, and attended first a week-long consortium with a number of medical professionals. They returned later to have hands-on training. Froedtert began using the new system in February.

McMichael said Froedtert will now have the ability to train others to use the Elekta technology. Since an article was written about the new technology in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Froedtert is getting more calls from physicians and patients interested in what the new Elekta system can do.

“Patients are calling about it for a type of treatment,” she said. For some types of cancer, this could do a better job, she said.

McMichael is the daughter of Carey and Kurt Hoppe of Marinette.