Sometimes what appears to be a setback proves to be an advance. Last month, Marconi Medical Systems lost its partnership with Varian Medical Systems when Varian and GE announced an alliance to develop a package of medical imaging and radiation therapy
Sometimes what appears to be a setback proves to be an advance. Last month, Marconi Medical Systems lost its partnership with Varian Medical Systems when Varian and GE announced an alliance to develop a package of medical imaging and radiation therapy systems for treating cancer (SCAN 1/19/00). But less than a month after GE and Varian made their pact, Marconi filled the gap with a distribution deal with cancer treatment firm Nomos of Sewickley, PA, which it believes could prove even more beneficial than the one it had with Varian. Marconi and Nomos hope their two-year agreement will lead to a longer collaboration on future visualization/dose calculation products.
When GE and Varian announced their four-year alliance on Jan. 12, Marconi had 30 days to find a replacement partner before its relationship with Varian ended. Marconi entered into a partnership with Nomos Jan. 28, agreeing to distribute Peacock, Nomos intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) package; Corvus, its inverse planning treatment system; and Bat, its ultrasound organ locator product used in prostate cancer treatments. Marconi and Nomos had begun talks about a potential alliance at the 1999 American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO) meeting in San Antonio in October.
We were on a month-to-month contract with Varian, and were renegotiating with them at the same time they were negotiating with GE, said Ken Freeman, general manager of Marconis oncology systems unit. They decided to change partners, and we accelerated our talks with Nomos.
The radiation therapy market is taking off, according to Freeman, particularly as companies explore the combination of imaging equipment and dose calculation techniques. More and more oncology departments are investing in CT scanners to use with simulation protocols.
There are more innovations going on now than ever with respect to how imaging applies to the delivery of radiation, he said. In 1994, 80% of our business was in shared services (radiation and oncology departments), but now 80% of our business is straight to oncology units.
IMRT technology has proven key to the advance of radiation therapy. It improves patient outcomes by increasing and specifying radiation doses, thus allowing physicians to avoid irradiating healthy tissue, reduce complications, and improve patient comfort, according to studies conducted at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Emory University, and McGill University and presented at the ASTRO meeting.
Nomos takes credit for initially commercializing the technology with Peacock.
We practicalized the IMRT concept, making a product out of a theoretical physics idea, said John Friede, chairman, president, and CEO.
Established in the mid-1980s, Nomos introduced Peacock in 1992. The product has been in clinical use since 1994, and received 510(k) approval a year later. In 1999, Nomos acquired Radiation Oncology Computer Systems, a supplier of 2-D and 3-D treatment planning systems, and in July the company won an exclusive license from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to commercialize its Peregrine product, a dose calculation system that allows clinicians to predict the radiation dose to tumors and other structures in the patients body during a radiation treatment. Peregrine is based on a mathematical protocol called Monte Carlo.
A partnership with Marconi is attractive because it should boost Nomos effort to strengthen and capitalize on its technology, according to Friede. For Marconi, in addition to Nomos IMRT expertise, its license for Peregrine was part of what sparked interest in an alliance, according to Freeman. By combining Nomos IMRT technology with its own Acqsim CT simulation product, Acqplan treatment planning protocol, and nuclear medicine, MRI, and image fusion products, Marconi will have a strong cancer therapy package to offer the marketplace, according to Freeman.
Nomos is the inventor and world leader in IMRT, and Marconi is the inventor and world leader in CT simulation. We think the combination is going to be more than the sum of its parts, he said.