Brachytherapy  "Treating Cancer From The Inside Out"

Brachytherapy treats cancer using precisely placed radioactive implants in tumors. The implants can be permanent or temporary, but the goal is the same: Conform the radiation dose to the size and shape of the target and limit side effects by sparing the surrounding healthy anatomy. “Brachytherapy has been highly successful in prostate, gynecological, breast, and several other types of cancer,” said David Hall, marketing manager for Varian Medical Systems’ BrachyTherapy business unit.

Breakthroughs for Permanent “Seeds”
Today, approximately 900 radiation oncology centers around the world use Varian’s VariSeed™ treatment planning software for guiding the placement of permanent prostate seed implants in what is called low-dose-rate (LDR) brachytherapy. Use of this technique alone or with external beam radiotherapy is increasing for patients, including about 60,000, or one third, of U.S. men who are diagnosed annually with prostate cancer.

Physicians want to be certain they are delivering the intended dose. Varian’s recent addition of dynamic dosimetry to its VariSeed software makes that easier. With dynamic dosimetry, VariSeed maps out dose distributions as seeds are placed, allowing physicians to make adjustments as they work. During the procedure, the medical team uses ultrasound imaging with Varian’s new Twister™ 3-D data acquisition software to see the prostate and the seeds in three dimensions. “These are breakthrough advances that will increase physicians’ confidence in the accuracy of treatment delivery,” Hall said.

Advances in Temporary Seeding
High-dose-rate (HDR) brachytherapy delivers high-intensity radiation directly into tumors through fine needles that are deployed from computer-controlled afterloaders that move the radiation source on a wire within the needle according to a prescribed treatment plan. The total dose is delivered in a series of fractions, or treatment sessions. Varian supplies VariSource™ and GammaMed™ afterloaders, as well as BrachyVision™ treatment planning software and applicators, for this therapy.

For cervical and endometrial cancers, Varian has introduced smaller titanium applicators that are both easy to see in MRI and CT scans during the placement and treatment planning process and more comfortable for the patient during the course of therapy.

Varian also has added a Vitesse™ module to its BrachyVision software to streamline prostate HDR brachytherapy, turning many treatments from overnight hospital stays to outpatient procedures. With Vitesse, doctors can transfer ultrasound images generated during needle placement directly into the BrachyVision software, eliminating the need for CT scans, and making it possible to complete a treatment plan within minutes. “In some cases, the first treatment can be delivered almost immediately after the needles have been placed,” Hall said. “Vitesse helps contain the cost of treatment and makes the experience better for the patient.”

A New Use For Brachytherapy: Breast Conservation
HDR brachytherapy is now also used to treat breast cancer. Today, many women with breast cancer are successfully treated with local surgery (lumpectomy), followed by a six-week course of daily external beam radiation to the whole breast. Despite the proven success of this approach, some women are turning to a promising alternative: accelerated partial breast radiation. Both IMRT and HDR brachytherapy are being studied as ways of delivering accelerated partial breast radiation therapy, which involves treating the area around a lumpectomy with a highly localized dose of radiation over a period of about five days. Debbie Vermeer, a radiation oncology nurse with young children, chose HDR brachytherapy for her own treatment. “HDR brachytherapy took very little time, and I was able to maintain a normal life,” she said.

Applicators & Accessories

For more than 50 years, Varian has pioneered a broad range of dynamic products using the very latest technology. Working in partnership with clinicians in more than 600 healthcare facilities throughout the world, Varian BrachyTherapy continually develops the most advanced, comprehensive line of afterloaders, applicators and accessories, and treatment planning systems available anywhere.


BrachyVision is a 3D treatment planning workstation that introduces a new paradigm: patient-centric, image-based planning. Although specially optimized for use with Varian's VariSource and GammaMed plus HDR afterloader products, BrachyVision is suitable for all of your general brachytherapy planning needs.

GammaMed plus

Excellence and innovation have been the hallmarks of the GammaMed name in high dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy for more than 50 years. GammaMed products have forged a legacy of firsts, driving technology forward to provide cancer centers worldwide with the most advanced tools for planning and administering radiation treatments.


Designed to be the most complete brachytherapy system available today, SmartSeed™ combines the VariSource 200 series with the BrachyVision™ treatment planning system, offering a real-time, peri-operative approach that allows completion of pre- and post-plan all on the day of the procedure.

Transportable HDR Afterloader Solutions

With a transportable afterloader solution from Varian BrachyTherapy, you gain all the advantages of a fixed system, plus you can maximize utilization of the system by moving it from one site to another. Varian Brachytherapy is the only vendor offering a full range of options to suit your specific transportation needs.


With more than a decade of excellent clinical results, transrectal ultrasound-guided transperineal permanent seed implant brachytherapy of the prostate has become the treatment of choice for early stage prostate cancer. Designed for ease of use and configured to support all popular treatment protocols.


The VariSource 200 series advances high dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy. Utilizing the latest technology, the VariSource 200 offers several unique features along with the highest specifications, making it the first choice for all radiation oncology professionals. Unique among HDR systems, VariSource uses a solid nitinol wire to convey the source rather than a stranded cable.
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