Euan Thomson is CEO of Accuray Inc., maker of the CyberKnife radiosurgery system. The device, which uses a highly focused beam of X-ray energy to blast tumors in hard-to-reach places, recently won 510(k) clearance from the Food & Drug Administration for its Lung Optimized Treatment. We asked Thomson to characterize 2010 in terms of the economic climate for medical capital equipment and what developing technologies get the juices flowing at Accuray.
I would say that the word “uncertainty” would characterize 2010. For those of us selling medical capital equipment, it was a year when the environment was fast-changing, with many overlapping variables. The entire year was dominated by uncertainty over whether we were exiting the recession and if so, how fast? Assuming the impact of the recession was diminishing, there was further uncertainty over how soon that would impact access to capital and the capital spending plans of hospitals and other customers.
Layered on top of recessionary unknowns was the uncertainty over U.S. healthcare reform. Even as we exit 2010, it’s still hard to predict the extent and nature of healthcare reform and its impact on the medical device industry. Put all of these together and it’s clear that it was a year that was hard to forecast and harder to manage. At Accuray, we managed this uncertainty well, however. Our global diversification and the clinical strength of our CyberKnife product enabled us to maintain momentum in a way that many companies did not. Our new order rate remained strong and our underlying growth was positive.
MassDevice New Year’s Special P/review
- P/review: Introduction
- P/review: Paul LaViolette
- P/review: Stephen Ubl
- P/review: David Lucchino
- P/review: Euan Thomson
- P/review: Brian DeChristopher
- P/review: Christopher Delporte
- P/review: Don Hardison
- P/review: Brent Hudson
- P/review: Hamid Tatabaie
- P/review: Patrick Dentinger
- P/review: Nancy Briefs
- P/review: Brian Concannon
- P/review: Ryan Howard
- P/review: Ed Berger
- P/review: Top stories of 2010
For the medical device space in general, I think the uncertainty will remain for some time. However, since our product, the CyberKnife, is a unique and valuable device to treat cancer, we believe that we will be able to maintain positive momentum for Accuray.
Our belief is that healthcare reform will give greater access to patients for the diagnostic procedures used to detect cancer. Not only is early detection critical for survival but it also results in solid tumors presenting in a form that is more treatable with the CyberKnife. As a non-invasive, cost-effective alternative to cancer surgery, the CyberKnife should have an extremely valuable role to play as more patients present earlier with treatable tumors.
With this in mind, in recent years we have invested in clinical studies specifically targeted on early-stage tumors. A good example of this strategy is a worldwide study being coordinated by MD Anderson to evaluate use of CyberKnife as an alternative to surgery for early-stage, operable lung cancer. Generally, as there is more of a focus on cost-effective treatments and quality of life in an era of resource shortage, we feel the value of the CyberKnife will become increasingly obvious.
What excites us here at Accuray are the rapid developments in the field of biological imaging. Recent advances in PET and MR have enabled visualization of tumor characteristics in a way never seen before. This opens the door to more targeted and individualized cancer treatments.
In anticipation of this, during 2010, Accuray released new software for its CyberKnife system to visualize this new generation of images during the planning phase of CyberKnife treatments. We believe that five to 10 years from now, CyberKnife treatments will take account not just of the size and location of tumors but also of the individual biological characteristics of the tumor as the treatment strategy is developed.