The Hays Medical Center Foundation announced a $1.3 million campaign to raise funds toward the cost of replacing the 14-year-old radiation equipment with one that has stereotactic body radiation therapy capability.

The estimated cost of the project is expected to be $3 million, and once the initial funds have been raised, the balance will be paid by HaysMed, said Dr. John Jeter, president and CEO of HaysMed.

SBRT uses high doses of radiation therapy to target a tumor directly. Treatments can be completed in shorter time frames.

"When I say stereotactic radiation, I'm talking about highly conformal radiation to the target," said Dr. Babu Prasad, radiation oncologist at HaysMed. "We are talking precise radiation with sub-millimeter accuracy. The beam is pinpointed to the target so the normal tissues and critical organs are well-protected."

Traditional radiation treatment is completed in 35 to 45 treatments. Prasad said SBRT could be completed in five treatments.

"In northwest Kansas, people have (to) travel long distances," Prasad said. "It's really inconvenient for them to make nine weeks of travel."

According to a study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, SBRT does not have increased side effects, nor is the toxicity level greater than conventional treatments.

Thirty-six patients were monitored and treated with SBRT. The local tumor control after 12 months was 100 percent. The one-year disease-free survival was 83 percent.

None of the patients reported aggravation of coughing, fever or fatigue due to toxicity levels.

"I'm not saying the treatment is superior (to conventional treatment)," Prasad said. "Everything is comparable."

Prasad cited fewer treatments as the main advantage of SBRT.

Lindsey Fox, radiation physicist at HaysMed, will assist with the technical aspect of the machine.

"It does require a lot more technical support when you're delivering such a high dose in a small fraction of time," she said. "It's very precise, conformal, so there's a lot of things we need to take into account, like tumor motion, making sure we can track that accurately. Everything has to be precise."

Because of the few treatments, SBRT costs less than traditional radiation therapy.

"It may become a requirement from insurance companies," Prasad said. "They want to save money, and we want Medicare to last for our children, our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren. SBRT costs less than 50 percent the cost of conventional treatment."

HaysMed aims to purchase the technology within the next 18 months.

"The machine itself is pretty similar to what we have now," Fox said. "It has features that will allow us to do more complex treatments, with better imaging and better mechanics."

Not all patients will qualify for SBRT, but the same machine also is used for conventional treatments.

"We want to start with lung cancer and brain cancer," Prasad said, "also prostate cancer, liver cancer and expand to other areas like pancreas and tumors near the spine."

Fox added the tumor has to be small and well-defined.

HaysMed will be the first hospital in western Kansas with the technology. Currently, patients are sent to Wichita or Kansas City.

"HaysMed is always on the cutting edge of technology," Prasad said. "We have supporting, committed people here. It's very important we have the technology here. Our patients deserve it. Our community deserves it."