Image of the future

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) is to begin full-scale production of an image-guided radiotherapy machine, the TM2000, capable of delivering stereotactic and intensity-modulated treatments fast.

Radiotherapy — high-energy radiation from x-rays used to shrink tumours and kill cancer cells — is effective but often impacts tissue surrounding the area being treated. Similarly, conventional radiotherapy machines are said to require significant time for accurate irradiation positioning to the tumour tissue, which is inconvenient to both the patient and hospital staff.

The machine (pictured below) overcomes this by capturing a cancer-affected area more precisely and delivering radiation more accurately than existing systems.

Developed in co-operation with Kyoto University and the Institute of Biomedical Research and Innovation in Kobe, the TM2000 maintains accuracy through its rigid O-ring shaped mechanical structure.

A new small-size accelerating tube that MHI developed with Japan’s High Energy Accelerator Research Organisation has enabled a more compact configuration and freer mechanical movement compared with conventional radiotherapy machines. Similarly, an innovative gimballed X-ray irradiation head with tilt and pan rotation functions, claimed to be a world first, allows for accurate adjustment of the direction of fine irradiation.

The machine is also equipped with two X-ray radiography devices that are able to show images from within the body, providing 3D information of the tumour area. These innovations will mean that treatments such as stereotactic radiotherapy (which irradiates X-rays to the tumour from multiple directions) and intensity-modulated radio- therapy (which provides fine control of X-ray doses) will be more widely available. MHI also claims the machine could be used to develop new methods of radiotherapy treatment.

The TM2000 has so far received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration and Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.

MHI Medical Systems, established in 2005 to market and provide servicing for the machine, will soon launch full-scale activities in Japan. To further promote the machine overseas, MHI plans to co-operate with Germany’s BrainLAB.

Initially the machine will be supplied overseas on an OEM basis.