2016 Finalist: Outstanding Achievement In Applied Technology And Innovation Sponsored By SAIT
Radiation Therapy Machine Revolutionizes Fight Against Cancer
Founders of MagnetTx Oncology Solutions have done what every innovator dreams of doing: they’ve made the impossible possible. Under the leadership of MagnetTx’s CEO, and University of Alberta professor, Dr. Gino Fallone, the Linac-MR Research Group at the Cross Cancer Institute and the University of Alberta has become the first group in the world to successfully combine a Linear Accelerators (Linac) and an Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MR) into a radiation therapy machine called the Aurora-RT™.
“Until we created the Aurora-RT™, it was believed that the functions of these machines could not be merged.” says Fallone. “Even today, a Linac and a MRI have to be about ten metres from each other, because the operation of one machine interferes with the operation of the other.”
MagnetTx technology revolutionized how tumours are treated by combining these two machines into one. The Aurora-RT™ was specifically designed to treat cancer that is susceptible to radiation treatment and MagnetTx Oncology intends to make this technology available worldwide.
Overcoming Technology Flaws
Before MagnetTx developed this technology, the best available radiotherapy machines relied on Linacs used on-board computed tomography (CT) to guide radiation delivery. CT scan is good at visualizing bony structures, unfortunately, cancer tumours reside in soft tissue. Although, MRI is best in visualizing soft tissues, MRIs had not yet been merged with linacs because of mutual interferences.
With the Aurora-RT™, the cancer tumour is visualized continuously to guide radiation to the tumour even if the tumour moves due to breathing or other processes. Through this new technology, doctors are now able to monitor the tumour position in real time during treatment with superior imaging quality that it makes it easy to better confine the radiation beams to the shape of the tumour. This ability saves irradiation of healthy tissue thus resulting in fewer side effects.
Using Determination to Continue Development
Developing groundbreaking technology usually comes with a few roadblocks, and the Aurora-RT™ was no exception. “The most difficult thing was obtaining funding to perform this research. The system is very complicated, and this is one of the rare cases where a medical device of such complexity has ever been built in a university or hospital setting,” says Fallone. The Linac-MRI research group received research funding from the Alberta Cancer Foundation, Alberta Innovates: Health Solutions, Alberta Health Services, Western Economic Diversification (Canada), Development and Trade (Alberta), Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
However, funding wasn’t the only hurdle. Fallone said the team “had to resolve issues associated with the physics and engineering of the system resulting in over 46 peer-reviewed scientific articles published to date.”
Despite this adversity, MagnetTx is in the midst of conducting regulatory studies and hopes to start treating their first cancer patients using the Aurora-RT™ in the following months. From there they will start their commercial push to get their technology in medical facilities all over the world.