In 2013, the Froedtert & MCW Cancer Network joined Elekta’s MR-linac research consortium, a global collaboration of institutions focused on uniting leaders in radiation oncology, MR-imaging and physics. The mission of the consortium is to investigate that MR-linac technology can lead to improved patient outcomes for existing radiation therapy indications and extend radiation therapy for additional indications.
“For more than a decade, the Froedtert & MCW Cancer Network has been at the forefront of the evolution of radiation therapy with the goal of providing more personalized treatments,” said Christopher Schultz, MD, FACR, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Radiation Oncology, at the Froedtert & MCW Cancer Network. “The foundational work we’ve been doing with MRI-based treatment planning strongly positions us to be among the experts invited to help develop this latest milestone in treating cancer.”
Elekta’s MR-linac integrates, for the first time, an ultramodern radiotherapy system and a high-field MRI scanner with novel software. It enables a physician to capture diagnostic quality images of tumors and surrounding tissues during radiation therapy delivery. The MR-linac is designed to improve targeting of tumor tissue while reducing exposure of healthy tissue to radiation. It could allow physicians to precisely target a tumor and lock onto it during treatment, even when tumor tissue is moving during treatment or changes shape, location, size or composition between treatment sessions.
Elekta and its global collaborators overcame significant engineering hurdles to demonstrate the technology’s feasibility. Previously, experts in the field thought it nearly impossible to combine MRI and linear accelerator devices because the powerful MRI magnets could interfere with radiation beams.
“While we already have significant evidence supporting the potential of MR-linac, fully realizing its practical applications will require rigorous evaluation in real world clinical settings,” said J. Frank Wilson, MD, FACR, FASTRO, radiation oncologist; Bernard and Miriam Peck Family Professor of Radiation Oncology with Froedtert & MCW Cancer Network. “Initially, we will focus on establishing clinical protocols and refining methods for data collection and analysis in pancreatic cancer, a deadly disease with limited treatment options. We are optimistic that MR-linac will be a critical advancement in patient care and ultimately, improve outcomes in this and other types of cancers.”
“We appreciate the continued guidance and support from the Froedtert & MCW Cancer Network and our other consortium members, who have been instrumental in advancing the development of high-field MR-linac,” said Kevin Brown, Elekta’s Global Vice President of Scientific Research. “This installation marks the latest milestone in our rapid progress to make this technology a clinical reality, and we believe MR-linac will transform how radiotherapy is delivered and establish new standards of care for difficult to treat cancers.”
"Philips is a pioneer and leader in image guided minimally invasive therapies, a fast growing field because of the benefits for patients, hospitals and health systems," said Rob Cascella, CEO Diagnosis & Treatment Businesses at Philips. “We have been expanding our efforts in interventional oncology, as we are convinced that image-guided therapies will have a positive, transformational impact on oncology. With the combined expertise of Elekta, Philips and other consortium partners such as Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Cancer Network, we are entering an exciting new phase in exploring the potential of image-guided radiotherapy as a game changer in cancer treatment.”
Consortium members are currently engaged in various stages of evaluation of the technology and are collaborating to establish new clinical protocols and develop methods for data collection and analysis. The consortium, which will gather for an annual meeting at the Clinical Cancer Center, September 29-30, is evaluating how this new radiation treatment technology may improve care for patients with prominent and deadly cancers including brain, breast, cervix, esophagus, lung, oropharynx, pancreas, prostate and rectal cancers.
Elekta’s MR-linac is a work in progress and not available for sale or distribution.