Government and industry to fund innovative cancer treatment device

(Edmonton) The University of Alberta will receive federal support for the development of a new cancer radiation therapy device that could lead to more precise and life-saving treatment methods.

An investment from the Government of Canada of $2.5 million will support the U of A, Alberta Health Services' Cross Cancer Institute and industry to develop, test and commercialize a new cancer radiation therapy technology prototype called Magnetic Resonance Real-time Guided Radiation Therapy. In addition to federal funding, the Province of Alberta is also investing $250,000 towards the initiative, while the Alberta Cancer Foundation is contributing $2.15 million. Alberta Health Services and its industry partners, ASG Superconductors and Paramed, are contributing $1.1 million.

The prototype will combine two existing medical devices-a magnetic resonance scanner and a linear accelerator-to create a novel, human-scale integrated medical device This device will produce high-quality, real-time 3-D images with the potential to pinpoint cancer tumours more accurately while treating the tumour with radiation therapy. The device has significant potential to improve the effectiveness and precision of treatment while expanding the range of tumours that can be treated by radiation therapies.

"This project will allow the U of A's world class research team to strengthen their position as leaders in cancer research," said Lorne Babiuk, vice-president (research). "This is a tremendous example of a partnership between different orders of government, provincial organizations, the private sector and post-secondary coming together to address the need for more research to advance the early detection and treatment of cancer."

Funding is directed towards the purchase of an MRI scanner that is being advance engineered to create the full-scale prototype. These costs include renovations to the vault where the prototype will be housed, engineering and construction designs, and contractors and manpower required to facilitate the construction of a full-scale prototype within the Cross Cancer Institute.

Gino Fallone, professor and director of the Department of Medical Physics at the U of A and the Cross Cancer Institute, and Brad Murray, senior medical physicist with Alberta Health Services, and the associated research team at Alberta Health Services' Cross Cancer Institute and the U of A's Department of Oncology, were the first in the world to merge the capabilities of an MRI scanner with a linear accelerator, or Linac, in 2008 with development of a head-size prototype. The merging allows for more accurate treatment of cancer tumours. The combination of existing technologies quickens the regulatory pathway to commercialization of the new treatment device.

"This leading-edge technology has been conceived, designed and realized in Alberta, by Albertans, for Albertans and the rest of the world," said Anthony Fields, vice-president Cancer Care, Alberta Health Services. "This is an exciting development that has the potential to dramatically improve the quality of radiation therapy for cancer patients."