ASTRO’s 2021 Annual Meeting hosted more than 140 exhibitors of cancer-care technology and devices and featured more than 1,500 research presentations and expert panels. The central theme was “Embracing Change, Advancing Person-Centered Care”.
Undoubtedly, the worlds of radiology (medical imaging) and radiation therapy are coming closer to each other and starting to merge.
Regarding the companies exhibiting, our first impression is that medical radiology giants are cooperating more and more closely with their partners to provide better integrated medical imaging with radiation therapy solutions.
Collaborative efforts are already paying off. Some are initiatives in guiding adaptive radiation therapy with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). We were impressed by the next-generation simulation platforms that can be adapted, for example, to external beam radiation therapy (EBRT), proton therapy (PT) and brachytherapy planning.
Others presented the upgraded software for MR-Linac systems to fully support magnetic resonance imaging during adaptive treatments.
Vendors continue to evolve their radiation therapy systems, adding image quality, workflow improvements, and clinical artificial intelligence (AI). They are also investing a lot of effort into advancing FLASH therapy research, including performing clinical trials of experimental treatments.
“It appears adaptive therapy is influencing the uptake of AI, as workflow automation is a must for effective adaptive RT systems.”
Among the exhibitors, we observed an increase of artificial intelligence offerings of solutions and products, predominantly in AI contouring, with at least five companies providing a product for the latter use-case. It seems that AI contouring is already solidifying its place as a future industry standard.
Workflowing can be also used for online adaptive therapy, based on daily imaging of patient anatomy, real-time target tracking and smooth adaptive replanning. It appears that adaptive therapy is influencing the uptake of AI, as workflow automation is a must for effective adaptive RT systems.
New radiation therapy devices
Vendors of new radiation therapy machines are also on the rise this year, occupying larger and more strategic booth spaces, which is an optimistic sign. They are introducing new imaging modalities for the treatment room, such as PET-CT (positron emission tomography-computed tomography), enabling biology-guided radiation therapy (BgRT). The latter uses external beam radiation therapy delivery via a linear accelerator, combined with PET-CT. BgRT can utilise mainstream standards for diagnosing, orchestrating, and monitoring treatment progress for many cancer varieties.
Another exciting development is machines that merge Linac (linear accelerator) technology with magnetic resonance guidance by employing high-quality MR before-treatment and real-time imaging. Such systems may also allow for prior gating of tumour-tracking features and adaptive radiation therapy.
Another innovative idea is to accommodate the patient in an upright position while seated. At the same time, the positioning system helps deliver radiation therapy with improved patient experience, clinical effectiveness, and increased access to radiation therapy.