Demand rises for advanced radiation oncology equipment

April 4, 2007

The number of patients treated with radiation therapy every year is relatively stable, but the demand for sophisticated radiation oncology systems is growing, according to the medical information division of medical marketing research firm IMV.

The number of patients treated with radiation therapy every year is relatively stable, but the demand for sophisticated radiation oncology systems is growing, according to the medical information division of medical marketing research firm IMV.

The number of therapeutic visits made by patients to U.S. radiation oncology sites has flattened at about 23 million, according to a survey conducted by IMV during 2006 and 2007. Breast, prostate, and lung cancer account for 21%, 20%, and 12%, respectively, of all cancer types treated using radiation therapy.

The percentage of sites providing image-guided radiotherapy (IGRT), however, jumped from 15% in 2004 to 33% in 2006, according to IMV's just-released 2006 Radiation Oncology Market Summary Report. The trend toward increased technological sophistication, exemplified by IGRT, is likely to continue as capital equipment budgets grow, said Lorna Young, senior director of IMV market research.

IMV data indicate that sites with budgets of more than $1.5 million have increased from 15% to 33% in 2007. These sites are buying sophisticated therapy equipment as well as treatment planning systems. CT simulators, for example, accounted for more than 80% of the simulators installed in 2006, Young said. Interest is also growing in PET/CT.

"What PET/CT brings is the convergence of metabolism and anatomy," Young said. "With improved visualization, sites can do much better simulation as well as planning."

Digital imaging has become integral to radiation oncology not only as an essential part of treatment planning but as a means for providing real-time treatment guidance. Dedicated IGRT devices and electronic portal imaging are the two sources for real-time feedback, she said. Ultrasound, x-ray, and CT are the primary imaging modalities used in IGRT.

The increasing sophistication of provider sites is also apparent in the purchase of information technology. About 90% of the radiation therapy sites use networks to share images used in treatment planning, according to IMV. Some 85% of sites surveyed by IMV indicated that they have installed "record and verify information management" systems.

The IMV report addresses trends and other data regarding linear accelerators, CT and PET/CT simulators, treatment planning systems, IGRT, record and verify information management systems, remote afterloader brachytherapy, and dedicated radiosurgery. Other technologies covered include intensity-modulated radiation therapy, inverse planning, conformal radiotherapy, intraoperative radiation therapy, stereotactic radiosurgery, and prostate seed therapy.