New technology allows accuracy in the treatment of cancer never achieved before

An innovative system for accurate patient positioning had already received attention at its market launch in 2014. Now the first of these systems has been commissioned at MedAustron, an Austrian Center for Ion Beam Therapy, and will there be used clinically for the first time. Cancer patients can be positioned better than ever before and will thus be able to receive pin-point accuracy radiation treatments.

To guarantee a successful Ion Beam treatment - a particularly accurate and effective form of radiation therapy -, it is essential to position the patient accurately in relation to the radiation beam and to permanently observe and - if necessary - adapt the patient position during the whole treatment session.

MedAustron will be the first Ion Beam Therapy Center worldwide to use completely new medical systems for these tasks: The exacure system of BEC GmbH (Reutlingen, Germany) as well as the Imaging Ring of medPhoton (Salzburg, Austria). Both systems meet the special requirements for Ion Beam Therapy and ensure the highest degree of patient safety. Together they allow for highly accurate and efficient treatments.

A custom-modified industrial robot, designed and adapted for medical use, is the core of the exacure-system. Its most distinctive feature is the ceiling mount, which allows for movement in seven independent degrees of freedom. The robot can not only be positioned in all three dimensions and six degrees of freedom, but also be moved along the ceiling towards and from the beam nozzle in order to further improve flexibility of patient positioning. Another advantage of the ceiling-mounted system is the integrated optical tracking system: it monitors the treatment couch position 500 times per second and applies corrections in real time, if necessary, to ensure optimal treatment results.

The so-called Imaging Ring System (IRS) verifies the correct position of the patient prior to irradiation in order to treat the patient with highest possible accuracy. The IRS is integrated into the patient couch and allows a very fast three-dimensional Cone Beam-CT imaging. The CT images are compared with the CT image set used for treatment planning. Any necessary corrections can be executed by the exacure robot immediately. This procedure guarantees that the tumour is irradiated exactly as planned by the physicians. The IRS – which has already received multiple technology awards – features a flat panel detector and an x-ray tube, assembled in such a way that they can be moved independently. Thereby, previously unreachable acquisition speed, field-of-view and image quality can be achieved and make the IRS the gold standard for image guided particle therapy.

„The unprecedented combination of these new systems at MedAustron provide unique accuracy, speed as well as image quality for radiation therapy, unparalleled in the areas of medical robotics and imaging. We are very proud to have engineered this highly innovative solution together with our partners BEC and medPhoton, establishing new standards in Ion Therapy” commented Dr. Bernd Mößlacher, CEO of MedAustron after the successful acceptance of the systems.

„Accurately irradiating a tumor while sparing the surrounding healthy tissue, calls for the ultimate solution in patient positioning technology. Transferring technology from industrial applications to medical robotics was a key factor to successfully develop the exacure system. Our congratulations go to MedAustron for this unique and innovative treatment center”, pointed out by Matthias Buck, CEO of BEC GmbH.

“After years of pioneering work in the field of image guided radiation therapy, we are very pleased that patients in Ion Bean Therapy will also benefit from robot-controlled positioning combined with unique image guidance”, Heinz Deutschmann, CEO of medPhoton GmbH, added.