Using Artificial Intelligence to combat cancer

30 June 2021

“You have cancer” are the words nearly 50,000 people worldwide hear every day. A cancer diagnosis not only affects the patient but also touches family and friends. SCC member Elekta, a pioneer in radiation medicine for almost five decades, offers personalised Radiation Therapy (RT) solutions to cancer patients. In a chat with Link, Dee Mathieson, Senior VP Linac Service and MD of Elekta UK, shares the company’s vision of treating cancer and gives insights on using Artificial Intelligence to fight cancer. 

“As a former radiographer, I have never forgotten the patients I met and still draw on those experiences. It will always be close to my heart. At Elekta, it is our mission to make sure we are providing our customers with the best solutions that deliver the most precise, personalised care,” says Dee. Elekta takes an outside-in approach to the continued evolution of precision medicine, basing its innovations on research. “The insights we gain through direct collaboration with clinicians and researchers are the driving force for creating ground-breaking solutions tailored to the needs of patients.” 

Personalised Radiotherapy 
The whole concept of “see-what-you-treat” goes hand in hand with personalising radiotherapy. State-of-the-art technologies, such as robots, navigation systems, and treatment systems, come together to enable clinicians to see their targets and acquire richer data. With Elekta Unity, tumours can be precisely located and have their movement tracked. The end goal is to facilitate decision-making – creating a personalised treatment for the needs of the patient. Elekta believes that it is all about reducing complications, improving outcomes, and tailoring treatments based on anatomy and biology to deliver personalised radiation medicine. The concept of “see-what-you-treat” reached its full realisation with the introduction of the Elekta Unity MR-Linac, the world’s first high-field magnetic resonance radiotherapy system. The first patient treatment on a CE-marked Elekta Unity was done in August 2018. 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) Operated Solutions 
Many healthcare organisations have turned to emerging technologies like AI and big data analytics to improve the existing maintenance operations. Machine learning (ML) and Deep Learning (DL) provide the opportunity to process massive amounts of data faster than ever before. By leveraging ML and DL models to identify patterns, the information derived from equipment sensors can be turned into meaningful and actionable insights for proactive maintenance of assets, thereby preventing incidents that result in unplanned clinical downtime. 

“At Elekta, big data, AI and other digital tools offer new capabilities that can improve service and support. For instance, over 80 per cent of Elekta’s global-installed base of digital linear accelerators are connected to our remote system for proactive support and predictive maintenance called Elekta IntelliMax®. It enables a service engineer to see and resolve potential problems before they arise, maximising clinical availability, minimising costs and reducing the chance of disruption for the patient,” explains Dee. 

This year, more than 3,000 IntelliMax-generated cases avoided clinical interruptions and downtime. Seventy-five per cent of these predictive cases were raised through AI algorithms. Elekta’s remote technology has helped healthcare providers to keep their systems running during the pandemic. 

Milestones in targeting cancer 
Much of the radiotherapy R&D work that Elekta has done over the years has been geared toward helping clinicians better target cancer and avoid exposing normal tissues to radiation. “In 2002, we were the first technology provider to introduce a system – the Elekta Synergy® linac – with an integrated imaging workflow to view the lesion within the patient at the time of treatment. It was the birth of the era of Image Guided Radiotherapy (IGRT).” 

In September 2020, Elekta introduced its newest linear accelerator, a system explicitly designed to address the global cancer burden. Dee says: “The new linac, Elekta Harmony, was created to provide the ideal balance of productivity, reliability, ease of use and precision. The system is exceptionally versatile, enabling doctors to use a variety of advanced techniques to treat cancer in the breast, lung, prostate and several other disease sites.” 

UK campus playing a critical role 
Elekta’s Crawley campus, “Cornerstone”, is home to the manufacturing, research & development (R&D) teams, clinical experts, and customer-facing professionals. It has played a critical role in Elekta’s innovation and manufacturing history. In fact, the world’s first digital linear accelerator (linac) that delivers precision radiation therapy was developed in Crawley over 60 years ago. Two years ago, Elekta delivered their 5,000th linac – an advanced Versa HD system built-in Crawley to a centre in Korea. 

Future Plans 
Elekta has a rich history of innovation and is consistently pushing the field forward. They are making efforts to innovate across their different products and technologies (linacs, MLC, software / AI / deep learning) to advance the capabilities of Elekta cancer treatment solutions with an objective to further automate tasks and simplify the treatment process. 

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