CEO, Leo Cancer Care
Smaller and more mobile upright radiation therapy equipment could prove to be an important factor in helping reduce backlogs of cancer care created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Delivering radiation therapy to patients in an upright position could increase the potential for mobile treatment and speed up access to cancer care.
With thousands facing treatment delays, the upright approach is being advocated as an efficient solution with benefits for patients, health systems and care delivery.
These include a better patient experience, feeling comfortable and more in control because of the seated position rather than laying down.
In addition, an upright radiotherapy system occupies less space, needs less shielding and has advantages in terms of installation, maintenance and running costs.
Accurate radiation delivery
Physicist Stephen Towe, who describes it as a “more human way to deliver radiation therapy,” also points to research from major centres highlighting how positioning a patient upright results in less organ movement during treatment, leading to more accurate radiation delivery.
As CEO of Leo Cancer Care, a start-up company developing a system for upright radiation therapy, he believes that by making equipment that is a quarter the size of conventional X-ray radiotherapy machines, cheaper and simpler to use, will improve global access to radiation therapy and help reduce the cancer treatment backlog.
“We are moving away from the idea of rotating a large radiation generation source around a patient to keeping the radiation source fixed and slowly rotating the patient instead,” he explains. “That brings the cost of equipment and construction down by about 50%.”
We are moving away from the idea of rotating a large radiation generation source around a patient to keeping the radiation source fixed and slowly rotating the patient instead.
The COVID-19 pandemic saw radiation oncology appointments fall by 20% with patients unable to get to hospitals, staff redeployed and restrictions in place.
But delaying treatment impacts recovery, with some 40,000 patients caught in radiation therapy treatment backlogs, there are concerns that delays have resulted in deaths.
With NHS radiotherapy units already working at capacity, a benefit of Leo Cancer Care’s upright radiation equipment is that it is smaller and has the possibility to go mobile.
The centralised nature of healthcare and bringing radiation therapy patients in to one centre rather than taking care to the patient, has not helped with the backlog, he adds.
The upright system also has workflow benefits with patients positioned in less time and easier equipment sanitisation afterward.
The Leo Cancer Care technology is still in development but has been installed in a French hospital for research and will go through the regulatory phase in 2022.