Meet Dr. Michael Folkert
Radiation Oncologist and Brachytherapy Specialist

Michael Folkert, M.D., Ph.D., focuses on treating many different cancer sites with brachytherapy (pronounced “bray-key-therapy”), a type of radiation treatment that uses applicators to place a radioactive source directly within or next to a tumor.

We can hope to curatively treat even patients with locally advanced cancers requiring extensive surgery."

It’s a very specialized approach with which Dr. Folkert has significant experience, first as a nuclear engineer and medical physicist working on brachytherapy delivery, and later as a physician treating patients, developing new devices, and conducting clinical trials to study brachytherapy’s effectiveness. 

Now an assistant professor with UT Southwestern’s Department of Radiation Oncology, Dr. Folkert is helping to build the department’s intraoperative radiation therapy program, in which surgical patients can have their tumor beds treated directly with brachytherapy applicators in the operating room before their surgical wounds are closed. Dr. Folkert also brings to the practice his experience in the intraocular treatment of melanoma.

UT Southwestern has committed the resources to construct a shielded, full-function operating room where intraoperative brachytherapy and other complex brachytherapy procedures can be delivered safely. Very few facilities can provide this service, which is generally available at only the largest academic cancer centers in the U.S. 

“It requires careful multidisciplinary coordination between the surgical, radiation oncology, and medical physics services – something at which UT Southwestern excels,” Dr. Folkert says.

The benefits to patients make brachytherapy worth the investment.

“With brachytherapy, we can completely circumvent the need to go through healthy tissue to reach the target,” Dr. Folkert says. “With this technique we can hope to curatively treat even patients with locally advanced cancers requiring extensive surgery, and patients who have had their disease return after prior external beam radiation therapy.”