Demand for inclusive, up-to-date cancer services drives ARO expansion

The passionate medical team behind Auckland Radiation Oncology's advanced cancer services.

Auckland Radiation Oncology (ARO) has announced its imminent expansion with the establishment of a new facility on Auckland’s North Shore set to open its doors in 2025.

ARO CEO Dr Kate McLellan says this marks a significant stride in the provision of exceptional cancer care for the region, aiming to bring treatment closer to home for numerous patients in need. She says the expansion comes as a response to the burgeoning demand for advanced cancer services in Auckland, given the region’s significant population growth.

By extending services to the North Shore, ARO is not only catering to the rising demand for cancer treatment but is also addressing the need for accessible and convenient care.

The future facility, strategically located near Apollo and Constellation Drives in Albany, will house two treatment rooms, specialist consultation spaces, ample parking and provisions for complementary health services in the future. The site’s design is forward-thinking, aiming not just to meet current needs but also to ensure ongoing growth and innovation in cancer care, says Kate.

ARO’s history dates back to 2008, a joint venture, owned and operated by MercyAscot and Southern Cross Healthcare establishing itself as the first private radiation therapy provider in the Auckland region. At that time, around 150 New Zealanders were traveling to Australia annually for radiotherapy due to public hospital capacity constraints.

ARO emerged as a response to this unmet need, acknowledging the critical nature of timely cancer treatment. “If you don’t get treatment on time, the consequences can be quite significant with cancer. It’s not something you want to be on a waitlist for,” says Kate.

From its purpose-built treatment centre in Epsom, Auckland, ARO treats 70-100 patients daily requiring radiation therapy. The facility is set up so that people can usually see an ARO consultant within a week of being referred.

Kate says that ARO is focused on offering people the best treatment options and has recently introduced state-of-the-art CT scanning technology. “The new Canon Aquilion Exceed Large Bore CT scanner, the first of its kind in Australasia, harnesses cutting-edge AI technologies to offer exceptional image quality, aiding medical professionals in precise treatment planning and execution.”

“The new scanner allows tailored treatments with greater accuracy, minimizing risk to healthy tissues,” explains Kate.

“Embracing innovative technology stands as a cornerstone for ARO.”

ARO has also recently introduced the CyberKnife, a high-precision radiation oncology system that promises to revolutionize cancer treatment in New Zealand. “CyberKnife, equipped with sub-millimetre precision radiation beams, is designed to target various cancers with enhanced accuracy, minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissues,” explains Clinical Director of ARO Dr Benji Benjamin.

“It delivers more precise and effective treatment, significantly reducing treatment time and minimizing side effects.” Dr Benjamin says it has been a significant investment to introduce and facilitate CyberKnife technology in New Zealand. He says it has substantial benefits compared with current treatment models for certain types of prostate, spine, brain and liver cancer.

“With CyberKnife, we can often treat with minimal side effects compared with other forms of cancer treatment. It’s a game-changer for prostate cancer. And for cancers such as brain tumours, patients can expect improved treatment outcomes and a better quality of life.”

The significance of CyberKnife is further underlined by the fact that in specific types of cancers, CyberKnife demonstrates higher accuracy compared to traditional radiation therapy. “Throughout the treatment process, CyberKnife has the capability to detect any movement of the patient or the tumour, automatically adjusting the robot to maintain precise targeting of the cancer,” says Dr Benjamin.

“This innovative technology facilitates the delivery of higher doses of radiation to the tumour each day, significantly reducing the overall duration of treatment while minimizing any adverse effects. To illustrate, for prostate cancer, instead of undergoing up to 20 rounds of radiation across four weeks, patients using CyberKnife might only require a week of five highly targeted treatments. This advancement could be transformative for some men in New Zealand.”

Patients at Auckland Radiation Oncology (ARO) started receiving treatment using the CyberKnife in December 2022. “Embracing innovative technology stands as a cornerstone for ARO,” says Kate.

“Our dedication lies in offering patients a range of choices and ensuring access to the most optimal treatment paths in their battle against cancer. It’s our privilege to spearhead New Zealand’s transition into a fresh era of radiation treatment, unlocking advanced tools for the benefit of as many patients as we can reach.”

© Waterford Press Ltd 2024 – Independent Print Media New Zealand

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