MAHONING TWP. — Geisinger unveiled a new Radixact linear accelerator that will rival cancer patient treatment in Boston and New York, Dr. Anand Mahadevan said.

Mahadevan, the director of radiation oncology, and other staff members participated in a ribbon cutting with gold scissors and a white banner bearing the word Geisinger in blue letters on Wednesday.

He said the accelerator is one of a few in the country. 

Mahadevan expects the unit to be used by patients from the region, Pennsylvania and from adjoining states.  

The machine will be programmed to treat exactly what needs to be treated and what doesn't need to be treated, he said.  

Lisa Keifer, associate vice president in the cancer institute, said the first four patients will be treated with the new unit on Tuesday. 

Kerri Michalik, cancer institute vice president, said the unit replaces an older machine. 

"Having been treated myself for cancer and having family members treated here for cancer, I couldn't be more proud to bring this technology to Danville," she said.

She said she's doing excellent following her treatment two years ago.

Keifer said this type of unit isn't offered anywhere in the area or outside of the area.

She said it will help support Geisinger's bone barrow transplant program so patients don't need to travel to Pittsburgh or Philadelphia. 

Patients who require total body radiation can receive treatments with the unit, she said. 

The circular, open machine is comfortable. The patient lies on a table and is moved toward the machine. A lot of treatment plan work is done without the patient present. The plan is loaded into the machine, which will know exactly where to treat the tumor and to spare surrounding tissues resulting in decreased side effects, she said.

Michelle Fartel, a radiation therapist, posed as a patient. She said she tried out another machine during training in the use of the unit.

"This is the first time here," she said of volunteering as a patient. She said she was moved through on a gentle ride. She and fellow radiation therapists Jena Gearhart and Melissa Rohm will be operating the machine and helping to train others in its use.