Siemens oncology unit leverages imaging technology in overhaul

October 12, 1994

Concord group prepares to resume shipmentsThe oncology unit of Siemens Medical Systems appears close topulling itself out of one of the worst quagmires a medical devicecompany can stumble into. After nearly a year of suspended domesticsales of

Concord group prepares to resume shipments

The oncology unit of Siemens Medical Systems appears close topulling itself out of one of the worst quagmires a medical devicecompany can stumble into. After nearly a year of suspended domesticsales of radiation therapy products, Siemens Oncology Care Systems(OCS) in Concord, CA, appears ready to resume full operationswithin weeks, according to Pat Boyle, vice president of the OCSgroup.

The Concord facility has been shut down since October 1993.Several Food and Drug Administration audits uncovered problemsat that time, and Siemens management decided to voluntarily closethe doors to the facility. The shutdown was a serious blow tothe group, but did have a silver lining, according to Boyle.

"It gave us a chance to renew ourselves and come out strongeras a result," Boyle said.

Siemens used the voluntary closure of the Concord facilityto completely revamp its oncology operation. When it reopens domesticproduction, it will do so with new product lines and an improvedsales structure, both of which have been achieved by leveragingstrengths found in the medical imaging side of Siemens.

The oncology group has reached out to other parts of SiemensMedical Systems, particularly the medical imaging branch, adaptingits designs and practices for use in radiation oncology. Mostvisibly, Siemens OCS has completely converted its line of linearaccelerators to a modular design, following a path establishedby the designers of Siemens CT and MRI systems.

"There is a lot of opportunity with medical imaging,"said Pat Merola, vice president of engineering at Siemens OCS.

Merola hopes to take advantage of Siemens' significant investmentin picture archiving and communications systems (PACS), and wouldlike to use the networking technology of PACS to combine imagingand therapy.

"Imaging is beginning to play a much more integral rolein radiation therapy than it used to," he said.

That is apparent in conformal therapy, in which radiation beamsare shaped to better fit the contours of the tumor being targeted.The more accurately the tumor size and shape are determined, themore precisely the beam can be tailored.

"It's fair to say that therapy starts with an image andthe better we are at making a high-quality image available tothe therapist, the better the whole procedure is going to be,"said Merola, who joined Siemens after 15 years of working at GEMedical Systems in Milwaukee on the development of medical imagingsystems.

MRI and CT could be used to improve image quality, he said.Merola declined to elaborate, however, on the details of how Siemensmight apply these modalities to radiation therapy.

He was more forthcoming about the ways in which the imagingside of the company has helped in the development of its new Simview3000 simulator, which allows physicians to set up and simulateprocedures before actually administering radiotherapy. The simulatoris only available for sale outside the U.S., although the companyplans to apply for 510(k) clearance in the near future. In developingthe new system, Siemens leveraged technology from its medicalimaging operations, including an advanced image intensifier, x-raytube and x-ray generator.

The medical imaging side of the company may also give SiemensOCS a boost in getting back into the U.S. radiotherapy marketafter the FDA gives the all-clear signal. Its sales force is puttingtogether account management profiles and is integrating its knowledgeabout the radiotherapy needs of different institutions with thoseidentified by the medical imaging sales force. Combining diagnosticand radiation oncology equipment data in account profiles willhelp OCS sales teams examine the total clinical needs of a hospital,said Dennis Falkenstein, vice president of radiation oncologysales.

Those needs will also be projected into a bigger picture, whichwill take shape when data about the individual hospital are addedto those of other hospitals in the chain or alliance.

"It is important as a company to deal with hospitals atthe level where mergers and alliances are taking place, so youunderstand where the hospital product lines are going to end up,"Falkenstein said. "It is necessary to understand the overallstrategy of the chain or alliance so we can better fit their needs."