Department of Radiation Oncology

Doctors will soon be able to watch a beam of radiation move through a patient's body in real-time, and direct that beam precisely at a tumour


Soon doctors at Sunnybrook's Odette Cancer Centre will be able to watch a beam of radiation move through a patient's body in real time and direct that beam precisely at a tumour. In the past, they could only estimate where a tumour might be based on images taken before the radiation treatment begins.

This new technology is called MR-Linac and it is the first machine in the world to combine radiation and high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This hybrid technology will let doctors at the Odette Cancer Centre target tumours and monitor their response to radiation with unprecedented precision – even as a tumour moves inside the body – thanks to the machine's real-time MRI guidance.

Physicians will also be better able to avoid radiating and harming healthy tissue that surrounds tumours.

The MR-Linac will eventually be used to treat a wide range of cancers, from pancreatic to prostate to breast to incurable brain cancers.

As the first Canadian centre to install an MR-Linac, Sunnybrook's team will remain at the forefront of cancer care, and an invaluable source of expertise and teaching for cancer ablation specialists across the country.


MR-LINAC dream team

Sunnybrook is one of the founding members of a seven-member consortium that is testing and refining the MR-Linac and preparing the machine for the first human clinical trials.

The global consortium is made up of medical physicists, research scientists, radiation oncologists, working together with the common goal of advancing the entire field of MRI-guided radiation.

The constorium members:

  • Christie NHS Foundation Trust (Manchester, U.K.)
  • University Medical Center Utrecht (Utrecht, Netherlands)
  • University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (Houston, U.S.)
  • Netherlands Cancer Institute-Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Hospital (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
  • Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin Cancer Center (Milwaukee, U.S.)
  • The Institute of Cancer Research/ Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust (London, U.K.)