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The Health Sciences Centre Foundation is crediting one man's $5-million donation for its new Varian EDGE, a machine that allows for more precise radiation treatment.

With the donation, Paul Albrechtsen became the HSC Foundation's largest cumulative donor, with a total of $8.3-million.

He was among the speakers today before a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the machine. Albrechtsen says he's very fortunate to be able to give back to the community.

"I'm very fortunate, too, that I can give with a warm hand rather than with a cold hand," he said.albrechtsen1Paul and Mary Lou Albrechtsen

The Varian Edge has been in operation at HSC since late 2016. Another speaker today was one of the first patients to be treated with the Edge, Karon Sackney. She says she had five treatments in seven days with no pain and no discomfort.

"I've had two surgeries on my spine to this point and, you know, the first time I was in the hospital for a week, the second for a month, so there was a lot of pain. This is no pain. I mean, I had the treatment, (then) get up and go shopping. It was a big difference," said Sackney.

Sackney said she wants people to know how great the machine is, and says she would've been paralyzed from the waist down if the machine wasn't there.

According to HSC, the Edge is the latest generation of stereotactic body radiation therapy technology. It provides faster, more accurate treatments, and is highly effective for patients with cancer and patients with certain types of benign tumours.

"What the Edge allows us to do is focus multiple radiation beams on the tumour from different angles around the body. When these multiple beams come together, their strength is concentrated, but the effect on normal surrounding tissues is diluted out. It allows for a larger total dose to get to the tumour with greater accuracy," said HSC Winnipeg acting COO Dr. Perry Gray. According to Gray, this means fewer and shorter treatments, and allows for the treatment of tumours previously untreatable by radiation or surgical intervention. He says to date the Edge is predominantly used for lung and spine tumours, but they see it in the future being used for tumours in the liver, brain, prostate and kidney.

Gray is most excited about using the Edge with the Calypso Tracking Unit, an add-on that tracks tumour movement while patients breathe.

"Some tumours move as the patient breathes: lungs liver, even some parts of your spine move when you breathe. So it is much more challenging to direct a radiation beam in exactly the right spot and avoid hitting those vital, normal structures," he says.

Dr. Jim Butler, co-director of the stereotactic radiosurgery and stereotactic body radiation program at HSC, says a clinical trial with the Calypso has just been opened. This study will enroll 24 patients and he expects patients to start being treated within the next month or so.

HSC's Edge is one of only a few in Canada. As of October 31st, 84 patients had received treatments from it. It's expected to be able to deliver more than 600 treatments per year. HSC says it's also been using the Gamma Knife -- a stereotactic radiosurgery technology similar to the Edge's -- to treat brain tumours since 2003.

As a sign of appreciation, HSC Winnipeg's heliport is now named the Paul Albrechtsen Heliport.