This fall, as the newly coined Dr. Robert H. and Mary Ellen Harris ZAP X Center for Noninvasive Neurosurgery prepares to treat its first patient, Hackensack Meridian Health made global headlines: Jersey Shore University Medical Center ( JSUMC) became the first hospital on the planet to integrate ZAP X® Gyroscopic Radiosurgery® with Synaptive Brain Only Silent MRI, offering a world first precision treatment for brain tumors and other intracranial conditions. It’s a monumental step forward for the estimated 1 million Americans currently living with a primary brain tumor (per data from the National Brain Tumor Society).

“Having the latest advancements in technology to treat our patients is part of how Hackensack Meridian Health keeps getting better,” said Robert C. Garrett, FACHE, HMH’s chief executive officer. The milestone was made possible by an extraordinarily generous donation from the Golden Dome Foundation and Mrs. Mary Ellen Harris, whose magnanimous support has helped bring several cutting edge care centers to fruition within the HMH system, including the new state ofthe art Dr. Robert H. and Mary Ellen Harris Heart & Vascular Center at Ocean University Medical Center and the Dr. Robert H. Harris Emergency Care Center at Bayshore Medical Center.

“My husband dedicated his life to advancing research to improve the quality of life for people facing diseases and disorders,” said Harris. “Making this gift and expanding his legacy by purchasing this life saving technology is the carrying on of his life’s work. The community needs access to the best care possible and I am honored and humbled to be able to play a part in ensuring that it can be provided to those in need. I hope that this new equipment helps a lot of people.”

HMH is the first health network in the Northeast to install the ZAP X system, lauded as the first new dedicated cranial radiosurgery platform in nearly half a century. The technology is groundbreaking in several ways. Specifically designed to treat the brain, it’s a noninvasive, painless, outpatient procedure that requires no incision. Patients are typically able to resume their normal activities the very same day. ZAP X is highly precise, minimizing the risk of radiation exposure to other parts of the brain and body.

“Radiation can have a ripple effect on the rest of the body,” explained Shabbar F. Danish, M.D., chair of neurosurgery at the Hackensack Meridian Neuroscience Institute at Jersey Shore University Medical Center. “With ZAP X, we are able to limit radiation scattering to surrounding healthy tissue.”


The machine, explained Timothy Chen, M.D., medical director, CNS radiation oncology program at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, offers a more comfortable experience for patients than other radiation tools. “It’s a frameless system, so we no longer need to affix a patient’s head to the equipment,” he said. “They can lie down comfortably. Anytime there’s movement, the machine will automatically readjust.”

Because of the machine’s precision accuracy, radiation oncologist specialists are able to open up treatment eligibility to a wider group of patients. “You cannot overdose tumors,” said Dr. Chen. “The only time physicians pull back is to limit exposure to the surrounding areas. Because we can be so precise, we can push more radiation to the defined target. In the past, we had to tread with caution when treating recurrent tumors, as this area had previously undergone radiation. With this level of accuracy, I can verify and prescribe the radiation so tightly on the tumor; we can target a specific area of the brain just a few millimeters in size.”

ZAP X also offers long term sustainability benefits compared to other precision systems like Gamma Knife, as its efficacy doesn’t wane over time. “As the Gamma Knife’s energy source, cobalt, ages, the strength of radiation emission decreases,” said Dr. Danish. “A treatment that takes 20 minutes on day one might take 40 minutes in year two. So every four years, we have to replace the cobalt. With ZAP X, the energy is created inside the machine, so a treatment that takes 20 minutes on day one will take 20 minutes in year two, three, four, and so on.”

By integrating ZAP X with Synaptive MRI, JSUMC neurosurgeons and radiation oncologists are able to considerably reduce time between diagnosis and treatment, limiting patient anxiety, addressing the tumor earlier and increasing chances of success. Before proceeding with ZAP X (or any type of brain tumor radiation therapy), the physicians must first submit their patient for an treatment planning MRI. The timeframe between the initial consultation, MRI, and treatment traditionally spanned two to three weeks, or potentially longer due to several operational hurdles. With Synaptive MRI, JSUMC is able to shorten that window to only a few days. “We want to reduce the time between receiving the image and treating the patients,” noted Dr. Danish. “We are now able to begin treatment after only a couple days, and our goal, as the ZAP X system evolves, is to acquire the MRI images then plan and perform the treatment in the same day. The patient can then begin any additional treatment, like immunotherapy, sooner.”

Like ZAP X, the Synaptive MRI was designed to only image the head. “Any hyper targeted, specialized machine is always going to be more accurate,” said Dr. Danish. “Another benefit is its speed. A normal MRI takes 45 minutes to an hour; this machine is able to capture the appropriate images in ten to 15 minutes. Traditional MRI machines also make a great deal of noise, which can be jarring for patients. The Synaptive system is silent.”

ZAP X, added Dr. Chen, is one of many leading edge technologies available at HMH to combat benign and metastatic tumors, offering another option for physicians and patients to determine the best course of action in the fight to eradicate cancer. “What’s really amazing about our system is that we have every possible radiation capability under the sun, including ZAP X, Gamma Knife, CyberKnife, and Proton Therapy,” he said. “We don’t just offer patients option A or B, we offer A, B, C, D, and E. With the installation of ZAP X, we have another tool to pack in our tool belt. It opens up the opportunity for numerous novel clinical trials and research. It’s a truly exciting time.”

Dr. Robert H. and Mary Ellen Harris ZAP X Center for Noninvasive Neurosurgery

Hackensack Meridian Neuroscience Institute at Jersey Shore University Medical Center

HOPE Tower, 19 Davis Avenue, Neptune

732.897.8000 / HackensackMeridianHealth.org/neurosciences