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Crawley based company launches breakthrough in cancer treatment

Elekta’s ‘ground-breaking’ new technology will revolutionise radiation therapy cancer treatment.

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In June Elekta announced that its Elekta Unity magnetic resonance radiation therapy (MR/RT) system has received CE mark, clearing the technology for commercial sales and clinical use in Europe.

Elekta’s new technology, Unity, has the potential to transform how clinicians treat cancer by enabling the delivery of the radiation dose while simultaneously visualizing the tumor and surrounding healthy tissue with high-quality MR images. Unity also integrates advanced tools that allow clinicians to adapt the patient’s treatment to this current anatomical information.

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The launch of Elekta Unity addresses a critical unmet need in cancer therapy to enable clinicians to “see while they treat”.

This allows them to more accurately target tumours with radiation in real time while avoiding damage to the surrounding healthy soft tissue, supporting personalised treatment to suit individual patients’ anatomy.

Crawley MP Henry Smith said:

“As someone who advocates in Parliament for improved cancer treatments, it’s uplifting that such innovative technologies are being successfully developed right here in Crawley.

I’ve long been proud of Elekta’s association with our town and admire their world-leading reputation in this area.”

Maurits Wolleswinkel, Head of Portfolio and Chief Strategy Officer at Elekta explains:

“We just released a new device where we are combining a high-field MRI scanner with a linear accelerator, so a beam that basically irradiates the tumour.

“What’s unique about it – MRI scanners are, I think, known to a lot of people. They [MRIs] can basically visualise tissue inside the body in a very accurate and sensitive way but it’s a complex piece of equipment. The linear accelerator radiates the beam – also a complex piece of equipment – bringing those two together is far from easy, that’s a huge engineering challenge. But what it in the end delivers, is for the first time we can really treat inside the body while we are looking inside the body as well. So treatment and imaging at the same time. If the cancer or the tumour moves, we can see it. If it shrinks, if it enlarges, we see everything while we treat.”

“Combining a high-field MRI scanner, a diagnostic imaging scanner with a linear accelerator has never been done before.

“In the past, it was often about trying to control the cancer at any means but patients typically were facing quite some side effects. If you shoot more precisely, only on the tumour and not on the structures around it, side effects will be lower, quality of life will be better and with cancer we see it’s becoming more and more of a chronic disease so the attention for side effects and quality of life is also becoming increasingly important and this new innovation of combining these two technologies in MRI and linear accelerating fits perfectly in that trend.”

The video below shows how the new technology differs from radiation therapy today:

Crawley born and raised, Steve Wort, COO at Elekta said:

“It is a sort of paradigm shift, I mean to go from combining a linear accelerator with an MR scanner, a huge magnet with an electron beam, it’s like oil and water, the two don’t go together. But the technology that has enabled us to do that is ground-breaking.”

“Receiving CE mark for Unity is a big achievement in revolutionizing the field of radiation therapy and a real watershed moment for treating cancer,” said Richard Hausmann, President and CEO, Elekta. “The change that MR/RT will bring in cancer therapy is paramount in advancing patient treatment. I’m thankful to the MR-linac Consortium members, Philips (our MR technology partner) and our dedicated employees for helping us reach this important day.”

Mr Wolleswinkel summarised what Elekta does:

“In essence, we build the machines for our customers, and our customers are typically the physicians or the physicists and the therapists that all work with the machine. In the end, they are serving the patients. So, we are an indirect chain just one step behind that. In that sense, we typically don’t market to the patient. It’s a bit difficult to reach all the potential patients in the world. But for us it’s very important that we become a partner for clinicians, so our primary customer is the clinician.

“If you ask most clinicians in our field, ‘Do you know Elekta?’ I would say the brand recognition is close to 100 per cent. They know where to find us but, in the end, it’s them that really use our equipment to treat patients.”

Monday (3 September) saw Elekta employees join national and local political representatives and distinguished guests in a ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the official opening of the company’s Cornerstone campus.

The opening of the new campus, which Elekta envisions will become a magnet for oncology innovation, has helped cement Crawley’s reputation as a world-class hub for the design and manufacture of precision radiation therapy technologies dating back more than 60 years.

Maurits Wolleswinkel described the new cornerstone building as:

“A building that reflects innovation and it also creates an atmosphere of how innovation should be done in the future – open, collaborative and we’re extremely excited about the opening of this new building.”

While Elekta COO Steve Wort, said:

“We are an extremely innovative company, it is part of our DNA.

“What this facility does is it really does provide the opportunity to be very creative and very innovative. If you walk around the site – the open spaces, the bean bags, the table tennis, you can play foosball, it’s a little bit Google-like in that sense.

“I absolutely love it when I walk down here with the café there and you have people sitting there having a meeting over a coffee – sitting on the steps, sitting on the little rocking chairs or having a meeting in a room with the bean bags on the floor and it’s just really, really good.”

Business

Crawley Borough Council award grants to two local businesses

Two business start-ups have got a leg up through Crawley Borough Council’s Small Business Grants Scheme.

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The Company Connector Ltd and Haus of FLVR are the latest companies to benefit from a council grant, which awards small businesses with up £2,000.

Manor Royal-based business, The Company Connector Ltd, will support local businesses with finding new clients and opportunities as well as encouraging inward investment from overseas. The company has already supported a number of Crawley businesses on a consultancy basis and helped to generate new business.

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The council awarded The Company Connector Ltd with the maximum amount of £2,000, assisting the start-up and first year costs. The financial boost has helped to establish the brand, website and social media, along with the necessary furniture and computer equipment.

Jeremy Taylor, Managing Director of The Company Connector Ltd, said:

“I am delighted to have been awarded this grant, it will contribute towards the set up and immediate development plans of the business including our first mission to Austin, Texas.

“In addition, the grant will enable us to support local businesses reach overseas markets as well as encouraging inward investment from other business centres. I applaud the council for recognising it costs a lot to establish a business that creates new jobs; this assistance is well received”

Haus of FLVR, a company that produces high quality alcohol infused frozen goods, received £2,000 from the Small Business Grant Scheme. The businesses main aims are to create an exciting, affordable and aesthetically pleasing product that brings a fresh and fashionable approach to ice lollies and canapés.

Samara Gidden, Director of Haus of FLVR, said:

“We are thrilled to receive funding to help produce a creative packaging solution that is luxurious and eco-friendly – both prerequisites will work in cohesion.

“We look forward to developing our packaging further and drive our business forward.”

Cabinet member for Planning and Economic Development, Councillor Peter Smith, said: “I’m pleased that we can offer two start-up businesses a £2,000 grant.

“It’s important to support businesses in the initial stages; it helps them to get off the ground and positively contributes towards the town’s economic climate.”

The grants scheme is for small businesses with less than 50 employees who operate in the Crawley area.

All Small Business Support Grants projects must be match-funded at least 50 per cent by the small business. Apprenticeship grants up to £1,500 are also available and don’t need to be match-funded.

For more information about business grants and funding visit www.crawley.gov.uk/business

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