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Social Innovation

Proton Beam Therapy

Every day over 300 people in Australia are diagnosed with some form of cancer. Of those, only 67 per cent are expected to survive, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Unfortunately these staggering statistics are on the rise. The latest cancer research by AWIH estimates that one in two people will be diagnosed with the disease before their 85th birthday.

However, an advanced form of cancer treatment is giving fresh hope to sufferers, particularly children and those with previously untreatable forms of cancer.

Proton Beam Therapy is one of the most technically advanced cancer treatments available. While the treatment itself is not new, Hitachi have recently developed a state of the art treatment system that combines spot scanning technology with real-time tumour-tracking radiation therapy.

Thompson, Senior Manager, Key Accounts & Business Development stated that Hitachi Australia is working to bring Proton Beam Therapy technology to Australia and believes it offers more than conventional radiation treatment. “The technology is unique in the fact that it can treat specific and very rare cancers accurately and quickly, with very little side effects and little destruction of the surrounding good, healthy cells,” Thompson said.

“You can basically get up (after the treatment) and go back to work if you so desire, or go play a round of golf or go home to your family.”

Proton Beam Therapy works by extracting protons from hydrogen atoms that are accelerated up to 70 per cent of the speed of light. This energy is then concentrated directly on the tumour. The aim is to deliver a maximum dose of radiation to the cancer cells, with minimal injury to the surrounding, healthy tissue.

Until recently, this form of cancer treatment has primarily been used on stationary tumours. Tumours in the torso, such as those in the lung or liver, have been harder to treat as they move with the patient’s breathing, making accuracy difficult.

As a result, Hitachi partnered with Japan’s Hokkaido University to develop a Proton Beam Therapy treatment system that tracks the tumour in real-time while the patient is breathing. It uses cutting-edge technology to target moving tumours with a high degree of accuracy. It repeatedly turns the beam on and off at high speed as the tumour changes location with the patient’s breathing.

The result is an effective and safer form of Proton Beam Therapy, with fewer side effects. Its precision makes this form of therapy a preferred option for treating hard to reach cancers and cancer in children.

By combining their advanced technologies, knowledge and expertise, Hokkaido University and Hitachi were able to develop a form of cancer treatment that is gaining worldwide attention. Thompson believes it is Hitachi’s collaborative environment and its strong commitment to Social Innovation that drives the development of these ground-breaking solutions.

“Hitachi is a technology company and Social Innovation to us is taking that technology and deploying it in a way that betters society. Whether that’s water treatment and distribution in the Maldives or providing high speed rail as a service in the United Kingdom. It also applies in our healthcare space. We not only bring good technical solutions, we bring integrated platforms that allow for better collaboration and improvements in how we treat patients,” Thompson said. Hitachi currently has 16 Proton Beam Therapy contracts around the world, including the Hokkaido University Proton Beam Therapy Centre in Japan.

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