The Government of Canada is supporting the development of a new cancer radiation therapy device that could lead to more precise and life-saving treatment methods.
A federal investment of $2.5 million will support the University of Alberta, Alberta Health Services' Cross Cancer Institute and industry to develop, test and commercialize a new cancer radiation therapy technology called Magnetic Resonance Real-time Guided Radiation Therapy (MRrtgRT). 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.
"Our Government's investment towards this initiative will help transform western Canadian health research into marketable medical technologies that generate new economic opportunities and jobs, while also improving patient care for countless individuals," said the Honorable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health and Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, on behalf of the Honorable Lynne Yelich, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification.
The MRrtgRT prototype will combine two existing medical devices - a magnetic resonance scanner (MRI) and a linear accelerator (LINAC) - to create a novel, human-scale integrated medical device. This device will produce high-quality, real-time 3D images with the potential to pinpoint cancer tumors more accurately while treating the tumor with radiation therapy. The device has significant potential to improve the effectiveness and precision of treatment while expanding the range of tumors that can be treated by radiation therapies.
"Alberta's talented medical researchers continue to develop products that are helping to save lives worldwide," said the Honorable Gene Zwozdesky, Minister of Alberta Health and Wellness. "Thanks to the collaborative efforts of our many partners in health and innovation, Alberta cancer patients will be among the first to benefit from a unique and innovative technology developed right here at Edmonton's Cross Cancer Institute - a truly world-class cancer research and treatment facility."
Federal funding is directed towards the purchase of an MRI scanner that is being advance engineered to create the full-scale MRrtgRT 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 MTrtgRT prototype within the Cross Cancer Institute.
"At the Alberta Cancer Foundation, we promise donors progress," said Myka Osinchuk, Alberta Cancer Foundation CEO. "We are confident our substantial donor investment in this research ensures patients realize greater therapeutic value with fewer, shorter treatments. That is genuine progress."
Senior Medical Physicists, Dr. Gino Fallone and Brad Murray, and the associated research team at Alberta Health Services' Cross Cancer Institute and University of Alberta'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 tumors. 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 Dr. Anthony Fields, Professor Emeritus, University of Alberta Department of Oncology and former 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."
The U of A and Cross Cancer Institute have a reputation as leaders in the field of medical physics and radiotherapy that will be further enhanced by this project, leading to economic benefits for Alberta through the continued growth of internationally recognized expertise in specialized medical equipment.
"The MR-Linac Research Project will allow the U of A's world class research team to strengthen their position as leaders in cancer research," said Dr. 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."
The project has also leveraged support from two industry partners, ASG Superconductors and Paramed, which will both play an important role in facilitating the commercialization of the new technology.
"We at ASG Superconductors and Paramed strongly believe that this exciting technology is one of the most promising ways to improve the treatment of tumors," said Paramed Sales Manager Antonio Toso. "Patients are our first concern and we are proud to partner with AHS to deliver this innovative system to a larger public audience."
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