Convention Spotlight

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When the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology meets this month in Atlanta (Oct. 3rd-7th), meeting-goers will have a feast of new products and enhancements to graze on. As you'll see, the products range from new radiation therapy treatment platforms and 4D treatment devices to CR for radiation therapy and IGRT training. We've included booth numbers, too, so you can get a look for yourself if you're walking the floor.

Varian Medical Systems (booth #825) is unveiling the Clinac iX linear accelerator, a new customizable platform for treatment delivery that features a high-performance, multifunctional foundation. Richard Stark, director of Delivery Systems Product Marketing, explains the flexibility of this new platform will enable customers to order a base unit with standard features, and then add high-end capabilities at a later date. With a commitment to "Dynamic Targeting" image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT), this platform incorporates a new 4D integrated treatment console for improved workflow efficiency.

"We've done a number of things that are very different on this machine," says Stark. "For example, the control area of the machine is designed with a single keyboard rather than multiple keyboards, and the software is designed to be integrated into a workflow that allows sophisticated techniques to be used more easily."

This design eliminates the proliferation of devices that control various components of the delivery system and improves ergonomic design and functionality. The 4D Integrated Treatment Console streamlines operations by combining controls for the linac, the Millennium multileaf collimator, the PortalVision megavoltage electronic portal imager and the On-Board Imager kV electronic imager. Additionally, this console is integrated with Varian's VARiS Vision patient information database.

Every Clinac iX system can be customized, configured and upgraded to facilitate purchase of a basic system to meet the current needs of a radiation therapy facility, yet enable future advances easily and affordably.

Varian's VARiS Vision radiation oncology information management system will unveil two new products at ASTRO. Clinical Assessment and Dynamic Documents are new plug-in modules for Patient Manager, the electronic medical record tied to radiation therapy systems.

The Clinical Assessment product allows the physician to capture the patient's original diagnosis and determine the stage of cancer based on size and extent of the tumor's spread. Because different scales are employed for staging various forms of cancer, this system is designed to lead the clinician through a series of questions to assist in determining staging and direct further treatment options.

Other features of Clinical Assessment enable the clinician to completely document any encounter with the patient, including laboratory results, vital signs, patient and family history, nursing notes and social background, including smoking or drug use. Employing a series of "checked" boxes, the system generates complete English sentences to facilitate reporting to referring physicians.

Dynamic Documents is capable of managing free-form text such as notes generated from outside the treatment center and faxes, through Microsoft Word functionality. Once a document is created and filed with the patient's chart, it can be tracked and fully utilized during patient treatment.

"This is a big productivity gain, and it's also about making a complete medical record, because when it comes to HIPAA, it's important that everything about a patient is captured and documented," says Keith LaPlain, business unit manager for information systems. After the encounter is documented, it is locked so that it cannot be modified after the event.

The last Varian information management enhancement being unveiled at ASTRO is a system for medical oncology integration. With many patients receiving simultaneous chemotherapy and radiation therapy treatment, this system is designed to fully merge information about both forms of treatment to facilitate care.

For radiation treatment planning activities, Varian will introduce a new version of its Eclipse 3D radiotherapy treatment planning software with two new dose calculation algorithms and stereotactic coordinate generation features.

Triple A (which stands for anisotropic analytical algorithm) is designed to improve dose calculation in heterogeneous media. In other words, when treatment beams must penetrate