Artificial intelligence (AI) helps cancer patients to gentler and more optimal radiation therapy

​Herlev and Gentofte Hospital is the first in the world to offer a very special technology, thanks to a major tendering procedure for 17 radiation devices organised by the Capital Region of Denmark two years ago, and thanks to efficient introduction of the latest technology by the hospital.

Radiotherapy at Herlev and Gentofte Hospital is the first in the world to start using a new system that, by means of advanced software and artificial intelligence, will improve radiation therapy for cancer patients. In the long term, the new system will also allow better use of limited health resources.

"In brief, we’ve installed artificial intelligence in a new accelerator; the machine used to treat patients with bladder cancer, for example. The new system means that a number of manual processes around radiation therapy can be automated, and therefore completed much more quickly".

"What used to take days will now take just minutes,” said Brian Holch Kristensen, head physicist at Herlev and Gentofte Hospital, who expects that initially 500 patients will benefit from the system annually.

More specifically, this means that it will be possible every day to draw up a new advanced plan for radiation therapy for cancer patients.  The plan will take into account the daily variations in bladder size, for example, and thereby the area where the cancer is usually located. 

Patients will experience that treatment is more efficient and gentler, as it will be possible to limit the radiation to the area where it is actually necessary.

Cooperation agreement with regular upgrades

Behind the new system is the world's largest supplier of radiation therapy equipment, Varian Oncology Systems EMEIA. The company launched the machine on 15 September at this year's ASTRO Annual Meeting, a major radiotherapy congress held in the US. 

As part of the cooperation agreement with Varian, Herlev and Gentofte Hospital has been selected as the first hospital in the world to offer the new technology because, two years ago, the Capital Region of Denmark held a major tendering procedure for 17 radiation devices. The contract also means that Rigshospitalet will install two similar systems in early 2020.

"We work well with Herlev and Gentofte Hospital on the new radiation therapy technology. They have been fast and very open in introducing new methods and systems, and therefore it also made sense for us to collaborate on testing and implementing the new ground-breaking treatment technology,” said Jean-Luc Devleeschauwer, President of Varian Oncology Systems EMEIA.

Treatment tailored for the individual

Sophie Hæstorp Andersen (Social Democrats), Chairman of the Regional Council, is very pleased that the large and strategic procurement of radiation devices has not only saved DKK 260 mill. for the Capital Region of Denmark, which can be now be spent on other patients, it has also helped develop and improve treatment.

"The Region's strategic procurement is also about constantly working with suppliers to find better and gentler treatments that can be tailored to the individual. When you are struck by a serious disease like cancer, getting through treatment as quickly and as gently as possible and returning to a normal life means everything,” said Sophie Hæstorp Andersen.

For the Chairman of the Regional Council, it is also important to use technology to compensate for the increasing shortage of doctors and other healthcare personnel: “Artificial intelligence will give us an extra helping hand."

Fact - which cancer patients?

  • The patients who will be the first benefit from the new technology are generally patients with cancer in the pelvic area, for example the bladder, rectum, abdomen and prostate. Head/throat cancer and palliative patients will be in the next phase.

  • In the long term, all patients in radiotherapy will receive ‘adaptive’ treatment, but not necessarily on this precise platform. For example, Herlev Hospital has also just started using the innovative MRI treatment accelerator, and this has the extra, very special property that it can track the cancer tumour directly during treatment. This is particularly important when treating the lung and upper stomach regions. All patients are directed toward the absolute most optimal/effective treatment, on the platform that suits best.

Fact - replacing radiation devices

  • In 2014, a regional working group prepared an analysis of trends in the need for radiation therapy in the Capital Region of Denmark and Region Zealand up to 2025. In the autumn of 2016, this analysis was updated and refined, and these calculations form the basis for a large replacement plan with due diligence.

  • The region has 21 radiation devices (linear accelerators) for cancer treatment. In 2017, 70% would be more than ten years old, and therefore there was an acute need to quickly start replacing the Region's radiation devices at Rigshospitalet and at Herlev and Gentofte Hospital.

  • In connection with Cancer Plan IV, in spring 2017, DKK 500 million was earmarked to update radiation devices and image diagnostic equipment at Danish hospitals.
  • In May 2017, the Regional Council approved replacement of 17 out of 21 radiation devices. Since then, the Region's procurement department has conducted a large EU tendering procedure, and a contract worth DKK 323 million was signed with the successful supplier, Varian Oncology Systems EMEIA.

    This is a future-proofed contract at an extremely attractive price, under which equipment and IT systems are upgraded regularly. A five-year research agreement has also been established valued at DKK 25 million. This will contribute to the continued development of radiation therapy and secure the international position of the Capital Region of Denmark.
  • Compared with similar projects, the Capital Region of Denmark has achieved a procurement price for the devices (including research contribution) of about DKK 266 million less than the price calculated on the basis of a direct comparison with the best known previous procurement prices in the region itself and other regions.

  • The Region's EU tendering procedure is probably the world's largest contract for high-end radiation devices. The tendering procedure was completed by the Region's procurement department in close cooperation with several specialist groups (physicians, nurses, physicists, technicians, IT experts, lawyers etc.) at Rigshospitalet and at Herlev and Gentofte Hospital. The result is primarily due to the strong collaboration between specialist groups, as well as the fact that successful procurement requires close contact with hospital departments and extensive market knowledge.

Further information

  • Brian Holch Kristensen, Head Physicist at Herlev and Gentofte Hospital, mobile phone: +45 2629 9924 or via Public Relations at Herlev and Gentofte Hospital +45 2445 9812

  • Sophie Hæstorp Andersen (Danish Social Democrats), Chairman of the Regional Council, through the on-duty press officer of the Capital Region of Denmark on mobile: +45 7020 9588

  • Jean-Luc Devleeschauwer, President, Varian Oncology Systems EMEIA via Mark Plungy, Director Global Public Connection with, Varian Medical Systems – Mobile + 1 408 203 2910.

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