RaySearch Laboratories AB (publ) is a medical technology company that develops innovative software solutions for improved cancer treatment. RaySearch markets the RayStation®* treatment planning system (TPS) and the oncology information system (OIS) RayCare®*. The most recent additions to the RaySearch product line are RayIntelligence® and RayCommand®*. RayIntelligence is an oncology analytics system (OAS) which enables cancer clinics to collect, structure and analyze data. RayCommand, a treatment control system (TCS), is designed to link the treatment machine and the treatment planning and oncology information systems.
RaySearch’s foundational ambition is to continuously improve cancer care, so a strong focus on innovation is only natural. About half of the company’s employees work with R&D and over the past five years, over 34 percent of net sales, on average, have been re-invested in R&D. This is believed to be the highest figure in the industry.
The focus on innovation should also be noted considering the fast pace of innovation in the med-tech industry in general. RaySearch’s competitive position requires a continuous lead in this development.
The company’s core product, RayStation, predominantly competes with the treatment planning systems that the major manufacturers, Varian and Elekta, offer as part of a package solution with their radiation therapy machines. At present, RayStation offers significant efficiency gains compared to competitors and maintaining this lead is vital for the company’s long-term success.
To achieve this goal, RaySearch strives to maintain a culture characterized by innovative thinking, with focus on quality, long-term approach, customer needs and commercial products. Employees are encouraged to pursue unconventional ideas. The culture is reflected in an organization where most managers are also innovators, and experts in their respective fields, therefore making concrete contributions to the innovation processes.
To maintain this pace of innovation, recruiting people with the right skills and a desire to develop is essential. RaySearch primarily employs new graduates who are trained and developed in-house. Many people who are now the company’s leading experts came to the company via that path. The RaySearch Academy provides ambitious induction programs for small groups of new employees.
Innovation and development are pursued in close collaboration with leading cancer clinics and research institutes, including the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Canada, UMCG in the Netherlands, Heidelberg University Hospital in Germany, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the MD Anderson Cancer Center in the US.
These close and long-term relationships are crucial to understanding and meeting customer needs. Employees from the R&D departments participate in continuous dialog with the clinics. RaySearch also has strategic partnerships with many medical device suppliers including IBA, Accuray, Mevion.
MAJOR PROGRESS IN 2021
In 2021, development activities resulted in the release of new and significantly improved versions of all four products. For RayStation, new features included improved dose calculation accuracy on daily images for photon therapy. Additionally, opportunities for planning and evaluation of treatments where external radiation therapy is combined with brachy therapy were enhanced. The possibility of using linear energy transfer (LET) to provide information about the biological effect of radiation in the body was also released.
The latest version of RayStation is more integrated with RayCare and RayCommand, making clinical workflows even smoother. For RayCare, the most significant improvement was that clinics can now configure workflows and tailor them to specific needs, which previously required assistance from RaySearch. In RayIntelligence, improvements included enhanced functionality for analysis and comparison of treatment plans for patient populations.
The large number of new features added in 2021 is indicative that innovation was able to continue unabated, despite restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. While remote work was successful, face-to-face interactions are still important for long-term innovation. These range from formal brainstorming sessions to spontaneous conversations in the corridor. In2022, creative work will hopefully be stimulated by two important events– a slowdown of the pandemic, which will reduce the need for remotework, and the relocation of the company’s new head office. The new office is in the Hagastaden life science cluster in Stockholm and has been customized for RaySearch’s needs, including conditions for cross-functional collaboration and contact.
FOCUS ON RAYCARE
In 2022, development resources will be reallocated with a focus on further enhancements of RayCare. This involves further development of the enhancements added in December 2021, such as functionality and user configuration, and integration with more treatment machines.
One goal of the long-term development activities is to build systems for treatment planning that can handle all forms of cancer treatment – radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery. In 2019, a dedicated module for planning chemotherapy treatments was added to RayStation, and a similar feature for surgery is under development.
One crucial development path is proton therapy, where successful collaboration with Belgian medical device supplier IBA will continue. This collaboration is focused on proton ARC therapy, which enables easier delivery schemes, decreased delivery times and improved dose conformality, and FLASH treatment planning, which has the potential to revolutionize the future of cancer treatment by delivering ultra-high dose rateradiation. Additionally, efforts are ongoing with treatment planning methods to enable better management of tumors that move during radiation therapy with, for example, the normal motion of the patient’s body, such as breathing.
The R&D department is investigating several methods that involve accounting for, or changing, the radiosensitivity of the tumor or healthy tissue. One example is FLASH, a new type of radiation therapy that reduces radiosensitivity in healthy tissue. Other possibilities under investigation in various research collaborations include hyperthermia, where radiosensitivity in tumor tissue is increased by heating, and dose painting, where a stronger dose is delivered to those parts of the tumor with low radiosensitivity due to, for example, oxygen deficiency.
Another example is new automated treatment planning techniques for multiple brain metastases, where both planning and delivery are often extremely time-consuming for complex cases. The new algorithms have the potential to reduce planning times from hours to minutes and enable the treatment of more metastases per beam, shortening delivery times and improves the plan quality.
Read more: www.raysearchlabs.com