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New UW Health proton therapy system will treat patients sitting upright

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | May 23, 2022
Rad Oncology Proton Therapy
UW Health will install the Marie particle therapy system to allow patients to sit upright when receiving proton therapy. (Photo courtesy of UW Health)
In the future, cancer patients at UW Health in Wisconsin will be able to sit upright when undergoing proton therapy at the provider’s Eastpark Medical Center.

The 469,000-square-foot ambulatory facility is under construction, and when finished, it will be capable of administering proton therapy with the Marie particle therapy system. Developed by local manufacturer Leo Cancer Care, the solution is made up of a specially designed chair that moves the patient in front of a static proton beam, rather than rotating the beam around the individual as traditional systems do.

This not only benefits patients but makes treatment more accessible, according to Wisconsin Health News, which will have the first center in the world equipped with Leo Cancer Care’s proton therapy technology. “There are several clinical advantages to receiving treatment in an upright position including more natural positioning of the heart and lungs, greater comfort for the patient, reduced radiation to surrounding organs and greater planning flexibility with the potential for reducing the number of treatment sessions,” said radiation oncologist Dr. Paul Harari, chair of the department of human oncology at UW School of Medicine and Public Health, in a statement.

In traditional radiation and proton therapy, patients are required to lie flat on their back inside a tube, while the proton beam maneuvers around them. The Marie system’s patient positioning system allows patients to sit upright when being imaged and allows treatment to be delivered to all particle therapy-specific anatomical sites. As a result, patients maintain a natural body stance and have more direct eye-to-eye contact with care teams, which enables better interaction.

The Marie system concentrates on how the beam is used and, precisely, the rotation of the patient. It still requires a particle accelerator, but the fixed beam system is designed to improve reliability, beam parameters and accuracy, while reducing maintenance costs. Additionally, it has a dual-energy, multi-access fan beam CT at the isocenter that enables real-time adaptive therapy.

Leo Cancer Care CEO Stephen Towe told HCB News that upright positioning enables better cardiovascular function and more consistent breathing. He adds that it is less costly than other systems and requires less space. “We generally say that we bring a 50% cost reduction in total cost of ownership. This includes building, equipment and installation. This machine will treat the current patient population as well as patients that simply can not tolerate lying down.”

The company installed the first Marie system earlier this year in Europe, according to its website.

UW Health is an integrated health system that is part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Construction on the center started on May 17.

The Marie system is currently 510(k)-pending and will not be used on patients until it has secured approval. UW Health expects to be able to use it on patients by 2024.

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