A bid to substantially increase the number of linear accelerator machines in Australia is set to boost access to potentially life-saving radiation therapy. 

This move sees GenesisCare and Varian Medical Solutions partner, committing to a multi-million investment of radiation therapy hardware and software to increase patient access to treatment over the next five years. 

This technology involves linear accelerator machines – devices most commonly used for external beam radiation treatments for patients with cancer – that are expensive and rare to access in Australia. There are currently only about 200 of them Australia-wide.

GenesisCare delivers treatment to people with cancer and heart disease and the new partnership will involve the installation of up to 35 new machines, increasing the number available by 17.5 per cent.

According to research from the Cancer Council Australia, an estimated 138,000 new cancer cases will be diagnosed in Australia this year, with that number set to rise to 150,000 by 2020. It also found that radiation therapy contributes to 40 per cent of all cancer cures worldwide. 

GenesisCare Head of IT Innovations and Business Intelligence Fraser Hughes told Healthcare IT News Australia that technology used to deliver radiotherapy has advanced over many years, enabling healthcare professionals to treat skin cancer with an unprecedented level of accuracy.

“This includes sculpting the beam around curved surfaces such as the face, scalp and limbs to treat small and large flat and curved surfaces. This is particularly beneficial for patients with wide areas of skin cancer who previously had few effective treatment options or where a patient is not suitable for surgery.” 

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According to Hughes, data plays a huge role in the technology.  

“To track and demonstrate these results, we are collecting rich data from dermatologists and other referrers, radiation oncologists and patients to enable analysis and publication of outcomes,” Hughes said. 

The cancer care provider has in place a structured data collection process and framework to help it understand, analyse and publish patient outcomes relating to quality of life, toxicity disease control, cosmetic benefits and recurrence rates compared to other forms of treatment. 

This process starts from patient diagnosis and referral, through to treatment and post treatment follow-up, which extends for multiple years to ensure it captures and understands long-term outcomes.

“We have created a research platform which will contain data on the different disease types, treatment methods and patient quality of life measurements. To support this platform, we have built a workflow-driven web application to enable a streamlined data capture process for our dermatologists with digital integration into our operational treatment workflow,” he said. 

“This has opened up the opportunity for doctors to have a clear picture of the patient’s treatment with real-time notifications, two-way messaging and knowledge of the patient’s journey.”

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In addition to the installation of up to 35 Varian linear accelerators and the use of Varian’s Eclipse treatment planning software in Australia, the partnership will also include support for skin cancer clinical trials using its RapidArc technology.

Varian Australasia Managing Director Chris Cowley said the partnership represents “another significant step” towards achieving a world free from fear of cancer.

“[We want] to increase Australian patient access to our radiation technology, and to ultimately improve the cancer treatment experience, and hopefully outcomes, for those in need. We are dedicated to combining the ingenuity of people with the power of data and technology to achieve new victories against cancer,” Cowley said.

The partnership will also focus on the emerging field of theranostics, also known as molecular targeted radiation. Theranostics uses nanoscience to unite diagnostic and therapeutic applications to form a single cancer-fighting agent. 

Utilising Varian’s image-guided technology and GenesisCare’s experience in clinical and research domains, the companies aim to develop image-guided treatment monitoring solutions in this evolving area.

 

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