Sluys-Kessler Radium Apparatus, Paris, 1930

Get Permission

Photo courtesy of Stanley B. Burns, MD, and the Burns Archive.

Devices to accurately deliver high-dose radium therapy became extremely sophisticated during the late 1920s. In this photograph, the patient is being treated for a carcinoma of the back by a Sluys-Kessler machine. This apparatus could also accurately deliver therapy for a wide variety of internal tumors, including larynx, pharynx, breast, esophagus, and brain.

The machine is suspended from the ceiling and manipulated by a series of cable and pulley arrangements that allowed the large hemisphere to be angled in any direction. The hemisphere was composed of 13 radium “cannons,” each consisting of a bronze cylinder containing radium and encased in a lead tube. The angle of the tubes could also be adjusted within their holders and aimed directly at the lesion. A caliper attached to a clamp held the cylinder in the lead shield tube and could also further adjust the beam. During treatment, a special lead shield was placed over the patient with the treatment area open to the radiation beam. The tubes were set about 6 to 8 cm from the skin. The charge in this case was 100 mg per canon. ■

Excerpted from Oncology: Tumors & Treatment, A Photographic History, The Radium Era 1916-1945 by Stanley B. Burns, MD, FACS.

Related Articles

100 Years of Progress in Oncology Treatment

In his powerful 2010 best-seller, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer (Scribner), Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, chronicles the evolution of cancer from the oldest known description of the disease written on a papyrus from about 1600 BC to the present day’s understanding of the biology of ...




By continuing to browse this site you permit us and our partners to place identification cookies on your browser and agree to our use of cookies to identify you for marketing. Read our Privacy Policy to learn more.