Richard Hausmann built his career on the physics of imaging – he spent 23 years at Siemens (NYSE:SI) and 4 years at GE (NYSE:GE) developing the magnetic resonance and computerized tomography businesses before joining Elekta (STO:EKTA B) as president & CEO in June 2016.
Hausmann told MassDevice.com yesterday that Elekta’s new MR-linac system, which combines MR imaging and radiotherapy for localized tumor treatment, is a “paradigm shift” in treating cancer.
With traditional systems, patients come in for a planning CT scan before treatment, which the physician used to identify where to radiate and what healthy organs will be at risk for radiation exposure. Hausmann argues that by the time the radiation is actually given to the patient a few days later, it’s possible that the tumor has shifted due to everyday activity like breathing.
This means that most radiation therapies can have a margin of error of 10mm, Hausmann told us, potentially putting healthy tissue at risk. The MR-linac system’s combined modalities allow physicians to monitor the tumor during radiotherapy treatment.
“I think it’s a paradigm shift, at the end of the day, in how we treat patients and how we save healthy tissue by reducing margins to the minimum extent,” Hausmann told us. “What we’re trying to do is reduce the margin to the minimum but still have a high dose into the center of the tumor. That’s only really possible if you have a good shot at the time of treatment.”
Elekta’s MR-linac is the first radiotherapy system to integrate MR, which Hausmann said was a demanding process. “The magnetic field itself is challenging,” Hausmann explained. “We designed the magnet in such a form that this magnetic field has a gap in the center around the magnet and in this center we can place the linac.”
Elekta has been working on the MR-linac project for 7 years, Hausmann said, and is aiming for a commercial release in late 2017. More than 300 researchers worldwide are collecting data for the MR-linac, many from Elekta’s consortium of cancer centers, such as the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, corporate communications VP Gert Van Santen told MassDevice.com.
Last week, Elekta announced Wisconsin’s Froedtert & MCW Clinical Cancer Center at the Froedtert Hospital as the 2nd U.S. site to install Elekta’s MR-linac system. The dream, Van Santen said, is to be able to monitor tumors in real-time during treatment, delivering higher doses of radiation less frequently.
Stockholm-based Elekta presented data on the MR-linac system this week at the annual meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology & Oncology in Boston. Elekta also demonstrated a recent update to its flagship GammaKnife radiosurgery system – the Icon targeted radiotherapy system that uses 192 cobalt sources to focus on a point of 0.2mm to 0.3mm in diameter.
Unlike traditional radiosurgery platforms, which require minimally invasive cranial fixation to prevent movement, the Icon system uses what Elekta calls “non-rigid fixations” and optical tracking to monitor a patient’s movement during treatment. The system is designed to interrupt treatment and alert the operator if the patient moves too much while the beam is on.
“All of our treatment solutions are based on one belief – having treatment machines that target well and having imaging on-board so that we’ll know where to shoot [the radiation],” Hausmann told us.