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Elekta delays order target for Unity MR linac

by Thomas Dworetzky , Contributing Reporter
Elekta is shifting its order-taking goals for Unity.

“Recently, we have made two difficult decisions for the short term, but I’m convinced that they are correct and necessary for the long term. Firstly, we have extended the final stage of the development and testing of Elekta Unity in order to finalize and validate the linac control system, as well as ensure that customers can make use of the full potential of high-field functional MR imaging from day one. Unity is a unique and future-proof system as it’s the only technology that combines an advanced linac with the real-time visualization from a high-field MR,” the company president and CEO Richard Hausmann said in a statement.

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The delay will be worth it, the company thinks – but it will delay sales.

“We are convinced that the new technology will revolutionize radiation therapy and create completely new opportunities for physicians and their patients,” said Hausmann, explaining that, “with the shift in CE mark and FDA submission, we adjust our target for the first 75 orders accordingly to the first half of calendar year 2020.”

The company anticipates CE marking for Unity by mid-2018 instead of 2017. This sent the firm's shares down in trading, according to Reuters.

The program, despite the delay, is “progressing well,” according to Hausmann, who stressed that, “interest from clinicians was very strong when we made the U.S. introduction of Unity at ASTRO in San Diego. In Europe, University Medical Center Utrecht recently presented results from the first patient study that demonstrated precision beyond expectations. The system generates excellent imaging quality synchronized with precise beam delivery. We now have 18 customers after we recently added two, one from a leading hospital in Italy and another from a research collaborator in the USA.”

The company also reported that it had need to redo its 4-year contract in the order backlog with McLaren Health Care, by mutual agreement. It will now continue “on a smaller basis.”

The company also announced a bump in year-over-year earnings before tax, interest, and write-offs for debt losses for its fiscal Q2, ended in October, of 30 percent, or $60.9 million, according to the wire service.

“During my first six quarters our work has been characterized by positive change, increased transparency, openness and customer focus,” stressed Hausmann, who said the company's target for the year was an EBITA margin above 20 percent.

The company was lately in the news when it announced that the Romanian government had agreed to install Elekta linear accelerators for cancer treatment at five facilities throughout the country to replace obsolete cobalt systems.

“Because it is not possible to modulate the radiation dose rate with cobalt-based radiation therapy, current standards typically consider cobalt-based treatment for palliative rather than curative cancer care,” Jaroslaw Lange, Elekta's Business Unit Manager for the region, told HCB News.

“With these linear accelerators, cutting-edge radiation therapy using volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT) will be available in a public health care setting for the first time,” Lange added.

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