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New technology is advancing radiation oncology

by Lisa Chamoff, Contributing Reporter | October 26, 2020
Rad Oncology Proton Therapy
A rendering of the Mayo Clinic carbon ion treatment facility with Hitachi Proton
From the October 2020 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Despite the coronavirus pandemic upending the healthcare system, developments in cancer treatment continue to move forward.

Flash therapy, which delivers ultra-high doses of radiation in less than a second, is moving closer to reality and equipment manufacturers continue to integrate imaging in order to adapt therapy to patients' real-time conditions.

Here's what's new in both proton therapy and radiation therapy.

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Proton therapy

Hitachi Proton

Last fall, Hitachi announced that it had agreed in principle with Mayo Clinic to build the first carbon ion treatment facility in the U.S.

There are several such facilities in Japan, many of them subsidized by the government, said Sash Matsumoto, vice president of sales and marketing at Hitachi America Ltd.

“It’s been very difficult to bring carbon therapy to the U.S. because of the high costs, and there’s no reimbursement for it,” Matsumoto said. “[Mayo Clinic] really wanted to bring a game-changer.”

There’s still a long road before the facility opens and it won’t be treating patients until after 2025.

“There’s a lot of work ahead of us but we’re really excited to bring carbon therapy to the U.S.,” Matsumoto said.

Last fall, Hitachi provided its system with real-time gated proton therapy capability to Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C., which is part of Johns Hopkins Medicine. The system allows for real-time beam irradiation to the tumor while compensating for movement, particularly for lung, liver and prostate cancers. This is the first system with real-time gated proton therapy installed outside of Japan.

New IBA centers have recently started to treat patients in Madrid, Spain; Leuven, Belgium; University of Florida in Jacksonville, and Inova in Falls Church, Virginia.

With 36 centers in operation, IBA recently hit the milestone of 100,000 patients treated with its proton therapy systems.

Two studies were recently published, including one looking at which patients with head and neck cancers were most likely to benefit from proton therapy. Using the model, the study found that over 35% of patients receiving radiation therapy truly benefit from proton therapy.

“A lot of centers and payers are wondering how to select the best patients for proton therapy,” said Aymeric Harmant, global marketing director for proton therapy at IBA. “This is a great way for centers to select patients to use this methodology.”

Another article, published in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, and Physics, looked at the company’s ProteusPLUS for use in Flash therapy in mice at Penn Medicine.

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