The Linear Accelerator: What is It and How Does It Work

A linear accelerator (LINAC) is a machine most often used for delivering external radiation therapy to those dealing with cancer. The device uses a variety of methods to customize high energy x-rays to mirror an individual tumor’s shape so that radiation can be administered as accurately as possible. 

LINAC devices efficiently target and destroy cancer cells while protecting surrounding healthy tissue, making this type of treatment more effective with fewer side effects. 

How exactly does this equipment work?

The linear accelerator is used to treat solid tumors in all areas of the body. A radiation oncologist will run several diagnostic measures to determine the size, shape, and location of the tumor. Afterward, the oncologist will determine what level of radiation dosage will be used. The media radiation physicist and dosimetrist will evaluate how to deliver the prescribed amount of radiation and calculate the amount of time it will take to administer over time. 

After the preliminary diagnostics for administration are prescribed, the LINAC is adjusted and customized to fit the shape of the radiation beam to conform to the individual tumor properties. Using microwave technology similar to that used in radar, the LINAC’s “waveguide,” then accelerates electrons and sends them to collide with a heavy metal target to produce high-energy x-rays. As the rays exit the machine, they are shaped to match the tumor’s outlines and directed towards the tumor area.

Specific protocols and safety measures are conducted to ensure that the beam cannot exceed the prescribed dose or travel outside of the pre-determined bounds that could damage healthy skin. 

During the treatment, you will lie on a moveable couch or seat beneath a part of the linear accelerator called a gantry. Your radiation therapist will use lasers to ensure that your treatment area is administered precisely. Your radiation therapist will also assist in helping your body to remain positioned for optimum beam exposure to the right areas. 

Radiation can be focused on any area of the body from any angle by rotating the gantry and moving the treatment couch. During treatment, you will be continuously monitored by the technologist for position, accuracy, and comfort. 

Reference Link: https://www.adventisthealth.org/cancer-center/our-technology/varian-linear-accelerator/

American College of Radiology Issues New Guidelines for Non-Urgent Treatments

On May 6th, 2020, the American College of Radiology (ARC) released new guidelines that can help radiology practices resume non-urgent treatments safely. Treatments that are considered non-urgent are mammograms, oncologic and orthopedic imaging, and image-guided biopsies. Most of these treatments do not include radiation therapy that often involves the use of Linear Accelerators and CT scanners

As Coronavirus cases continue to drop in most areas, radiology practices are starting to resume non-urgent care practices to patients. “Radiology practices largely followed the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and SCP guidance to postpone non-urgent care. While local conditions prevent a single prescriptive strategy to resume such care, general principles can apply in most settings…” said American College of Radiology Commission on Quality and Safety Chair, Jacqueline A. Bello, M.D., FACR. 

Read more about the ACR guidelines here

Recent Developments in Artificial Intelligence and Radiation Therapy

“AI (artificial intelligence) can help treatment planners and dosimetrists by saving a lot of time doing simpler and more repetitive tasks…,” explained Steve Jiang, Ph.D., director of the medical artificial intelligence and automation lab of the Dept. of Radiation Oncology, University of Texas Southwestern. 

For those unfamiliar with AI, we are referring to computer or machine intelligence systems that can perform tasks that usually require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making abilities. 

Discussions about how AI will impact humanity have been occurring for many years in many industries; however, AI has been making headway into the radiation therapy and oncology fields within the past few years. 

Two such companies making the technological leap in AI for radiation oncology and treatment planning are Varian and RaySearch – both have developed machine-learning technologies to automate treatment plans.

“The fully automated system takes in the patient imaging and the target defined by the physician, and out on the other end comes a fully deliverable therapy plan,” said Kevin Moore, Ph.D., DABR, deputy director of medical physics and associate professor, University of California San Diego.

Dr. Moore said that “The comparisons were very good,” about tests that were made when SCSD began using the software in tandem with traditional treatment planning. After a human plan was developed, they ran the AI, and it only took 5-20 minutes to complete depending on the complexity of the plan. UCSD has now treated well over 1,000 patients with its AI-assisted planning. 

RaySearch has incorporated machine learning clinically since 2019. The system is trained to take the treatment planning computed tomography (CT) scans and automatically segment the anatomy and auto-contour to help speed the planning process. 

“The automated treatment planning system works by training the algorithm with curated sets of similar treatment plans, and it is able to detect the patients who are most similar to a novel patient and create a new treatment plan…,” explained Leigh Conroy, Ph.D., physics resident, at Princess Margaret Cancer Center, who has been working on the AI implementation. 

RaySearch is developing several other machine learning applications, including target volume estimation and large-scale data extraction and analysis.

Other highlights of AI technologies are adaptive AI-driven onboarding planning within the radiotherapy system, auto contouring for treatment plans, and creating MRI-derived CT scans for planning. To read more on these exciting technologies, read the full article here.  

RefleXion Receives Clearance from FDA for New X1 Machine

A significant stepping stone in radiotherapy occurred with the announcement by the therapeutic oncology company, RefleXion Medical. RefleXion Medical received clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for three types of therapy; stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT), stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS), and intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT). The groundbreaking new technology within the X1 machine will allow for more precise tumor location capabilities that can combine high-quality CT imaging. Within the X1 device, a linear accelerator offers technology that can rotate 60 times faster than standard linear devices. In this article, the CEO of RefleXion Medical is hoping that the X1 machine will treat not only the early stages of cancer but also offer thorough treatment solutions for those suffering from the most advanced stages. The transition of this company from a research-level, to now a commercial entity, has been a 10-year process. The company comes full circle by offering a new form of treatment with biology-guided radiotherapy (BgRT) into the market. 

Purchasing a Preowned Linear Accelerator – Great Quality at a Lower Cost

When choosing the medical equipment for your facility, it can be a difficult decision to find the best system that can provide treatments for patients while trying to stay inside a budget. Many radiation oncology centers struggle with the decision to purchase a new system vs. preowned refurbished medical equipment. If given a choice, a new linear accelerator will seem most appealing because of the updated technology and advanced features it offers. However, due to economic and other factors, it may not always be a reasonable option. Purchasing used and or refurbished medical equipment does not mean that your facility is stuck using out of date technology. There is still a lot of equipment available, allowing buyers the opportunity to receive the most up-to-date technology at a much lower price tag.

Starting a New Practice/ Facility

Purchasing used or refurbished medical equipment may be an excellent option for new clinics since they may not have the start-up capital for new products. If treatments are given to fewer patients (less than 8-10 times a day), and machine use is low, this will allow a business to start building up a revenue base for the practice. In the beginning, a facility may decide to buy newer equipment within 4-7 years while operating older equipment.

Having a Backup/ Relocation Plan

Many medical centers may be currently performing treatment with one system, so having a backup machine is a good plan to ensure patient schedules run without delay due to limited operating capacity. The process of replacing or supplementing a linear accelerator can extremely cumbersome, lasting 3 to 4 weeks in some cases. Having this long of a delay in treatment can be detrimental to patients that need treatment daily. One option to consider is to purchase a nearly identical, used linear accelerator and install it within a new location. Once the new center is operational, the company can remove and resell the original machine; This will ensure no disruption with patient care occurs and offer a smooth transition for relocation.

Room for Improvements

Purchasing a used linear accelerator will give your facility more room to grow and allow for cost-savings benefits. Many machines can receive upgrades later during their life since most original manufacturers or third-party companies offer upgradeable options for used equipment models. If the software is more important to your clinic than hardware, this option can be cost-effective since the software is typically more expensive than the hardware.  However, this option is not a perfect solution for all medical centers as each center will have specific requirements that may find new medical equipment to be a better choice.

As an independent LINAC service company, Acceletronics is dedicated to delivering the best equipment performance and services for linear accelerators and CT scanners across all major brands and models, as well as new and refurbished LINAC systems for sale.  More information can be found online at https://www.acceletronics.com/.



MRIdian Machines Create Precise Radiotherapy Methods

More than half of cancer patients that receive a diagnosis are most likely to be treated with a form of radiotherapy. Radiotherapy is a treatment that provides a high dose of radiation using a piece of equipment such as a linear accelerator and is aimed at a given area to eliminate cancer cells. Today’s technology has been very successful with these methods of cancer treatment. Still, even with precise planning, radiotherapy has many obstacles to overcome. Simple internal movements within the body such as breathing, bladder filling, digestion, or tensing up can impact the tumor movement up to half an inch, which may cause radiation to damage surrounding healthy cells and tissues. Engineers have developed a type of magnetic resonance linear accelerator (MR Linac) to combat these movement issues with live, detailed images of the tumor with higher accuracy. Read More on how this equipment can be utilized for precise treatments on patients.

Scientist Search for the Next Elements to Add to Periodic Table

Nuclear physicist, Kosuke Morita at Japan’s Kyushu University is on the verge of creating the next new element for the periodic table. Morita and his team have successfully synthesized a new element to the periodic table, making it number 113. There is now a total of 118 known elements, and the race for number 119 is on. In nature, there are only 92 protons in a nucleus of an atom, but through research and experimentation, it has been possible to synthesize atoms with more in a lab. Element 119 is still a hypothetical element that would be the seventh alkali metal named ununennium. Morita’s team plans to conduct experiments using two types of particle accelerators, including the cyclotron beam and a linear accelerator. To read more information on how his team was successful in creation on element 113 and future plans for element 119, read here.  

Particle Accelerator in New York To Probe Protons and Neutrons

For the first time in decades, the United States will have its first new particle collider. The Department of Energy announced earlier this year that the new location of this machine will be at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York. The research will be done with the instrument to study the dynamic makeup of protons and neutrons. The new particle collider is a strong electron microscope that shoots electrons at protons and neutrons in order to measure them. The use of these accelerators shows great promise for the future in the fields of nuclear medicine as well as quantum information technologies. The design process will, however, not be finalized until 2024, and then it will take about another six years for construction and start up to occur. To read more on the new particle collider in this article, click here.

Types of Radiation Therapy

Radiation treatment continues to grow and change in order to improve the health and quality of life to cancer patients all around the world. With radiation therapy, high-energy particles or waves of energy are used to treat cancer by breaking up the DNA of cancer cells in a way that destroys their growth and division. Radiation can kill cancer cells or can decrease the rate at which cancer will spread. 

Goals of Radiation Therapy

A doctor may recommend radiation as a treatment option at different stages of a cancer diagnosis. When cancer is found in earlier stages, radiation therapy can help decrease the size of a tumor before a scheduled surgery or be used after surgery to kill any remaining cancerous cells. Radiation therapy can also be used in later stages of cancer and can be used as a solution for pain relief, or part of palliative care. When speaking of types of radiation therapy available, there are two main forms used for treatments both external and internal. Doctors will sometime prescribe radiation therapy to be combined with other cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, surgery, and others.

External Radiation Therapy

The most common type of radiation treatment involves an external source of equipment that delivers radiation from outside a patient’s body that is aimed at a targeted cancer site. Equipment used in external beam therapy include systems such as proton and neutron beam machines, orthovoltage x-ray, Cobalt-60 machines, and linear accelerators. The team of radiation oncologists will determine which method and system are best for treatment, depending on the location of cancer within the body. These systems can be used for patients who have several tumors of the head, neck, breast, lung, colon, and prostate. There are two levels of radiation when external radiation therapy is performed depending on the location of the tumor, low-energy and high-energy radiation. Low-energy radiation may be a better choice in treating surface tumors like skin cancer since it will not penetrate very deep into the body. High-energy radiation is used when patients require deeper penetration to reach cancerous cells hidden in the patient’s body.    

Internal Radiation Therapy

There are a few different types of internal radiation therapy available. One method is called Brachytherapy, which is described as placing radiation sources as close to the tumor site as possible. In some instances, it can be inserted directly inside the tumor. The implant may be temporary or permanent and is used in many cancers such as ones found in the cervix, uterus, vagina, rectum, eye, and in certain parts of the head and neck. Brachytherapy is separated into categories by the method in which radiation is placed on the body.

  • Interstitial Brachytherapy – involves placing radioactive needles or wires in the tumor area for a selected length of time, whether a day, a week or can remain in the patient’s body permanently.   
  • Intracavitary Brachytherapy – the placement of a metal or plastic radioactive source that is inserted into body cavities such as the vagina, uterus, or larynx to irradiate the cancerous walls within the cavity or the tissues nearby.
  • Intraluminal Radiation Therapy – delivers radiation to hollow organs. A surgeon or a radiation oncologist performs this method by inserting a specially designed tube in an opening such as the esophagus for cancer treatment.
  • Radioactively Tagged Molecules – radioactive particles are attached to small molecules and delivered intravenously.

As an independent LINAC service company, Acceletronics is dedicated to delivering the best equipment performance and services for linear accelerators and CT scanners across all major brands and models, as well as new and refurbished LINAC systems for sale. More information can be found online at  https://www.acceletronics.com/.

One Step Closer to the World’s Strongest Particle Accelerator

A team of researchers called the Muon Ionization Cooling Experiment (MICE) collaboration had announced the success of completing a muon beam. In the past, particles made of protons, electrons, and ions have been accelerated in concentrated beams. This new particle called muons are particles much like electrons but with a larger mass, which gives them the ability to create beams with ten times more energy than the previous largest particle accelerator, the Hadron Collider. Muons can also be used in further research on the atomic structure of materials and can see through highly dense materials that X-Rays cannot penetrate. To learn more about muons and how they are produced and how the team MICE have been successful in the cooling methods for this new scientific breakthrough, read this article