Quality control software developed at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre will soon be sold globally

When you lead in a field, you are always ‘pushing the envelope’ and looking for better ways to do everything. 

At Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, one of the many areas where we are pushing and re-inventing is in the use of radiation to eradicate cancer.  Up to sixteen linear accelerators (valued at approximately $3 million each) are online each day along with a variety of imaging equipment.  All of this equipment must be working optimally to deliver radiation safely to over 400 patients a day, with the precision needed to be effective while minimizing toxic side effects. 

Dr. Daniel Létourneau is associate head of physics at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and responsible for external beam equipment quality control at this large facility. With so many different pieces of radiation and imaging equipment to monitor and maintain, he knew there was a need for a single interface for the entry, management, analysis and archiving of all test data, and a platform that would centralize all of the quality control activities for radiation therapy.

“We are dealing with equipment that has the potential to harm if not employed properly, and therefore safety is paramount in absolutely everything we do.  For the safety of our patients and staff, our trained team must operate the equipment according to strict rules and guidelines; the equipment must be functioning according to our expectations and specifications; and it must be finely calibrated to the accuracy it is capable of,” says Dr. Létourneau.

Each piece of equipment has different sub-systems and functionality that needs to be checked and tested frequently. Our team determined that a centralized quality management system would not only streamline workflow and improve the productivity of staff, but would provide a convenient, accessible database to track all tests conducted and their results. As part of the system, a real-time dashboard was developed as a management tool for quality control—delivering an assessment of departmental quality control compliance and machine performance at a glance.

After surveying the market to determine if there was a product that could do what was needed and concluding that there was not, the team proceeded to design and build the system in-house.  In less than two years, the system was installed and integrated the testing of all sixteen linear accelerators and the imaging equipment.  The team called their system AQUA (Automated Quality Assurance).

AQUA and the team behind it were recognized by the Cancer Quality Council of Ontario for a 2014 Innovation Award (Honorable Mention).
Collaborating with product manufacturers

A world-leading radiation medicine team such as the one at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre is a tremendous source of expertise for the manufacturers of radiation equipment.  The radiation oncologists, physicists and therapists are able to show the manufacturers how they are able to operate the equipment in ways that fully exploit the features of the equipment—ways that the manufacturer may not even know. Our radiation medicine team is also a tremendous source of intelligence for equipment manufacturers as they plan their future product lines and enhancements. The team building AQUA consulted and worked with their equipment suppliers as they designed their system.

Dr. David Jaffray is head of Radiation Physics for Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and he strongly believes that collaboration between product suppliers and their customers is critical to advancing the field of radiation medicine. “If the manufacturers listen to the needs we have and some of the issues that they may not even be aware of, we can help to create a more effective product for the care of cancer patients.”
Commercializing AQUA

Description: AcumynWhile AQUA was built for the benefit of Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, there was also considerable thought given to building a product that could also benefit other radiation therapy operations. Once the first version of the software was operating at The Princess Margaret, planning began to commercialize AQUA.  University Health Network (of which Princess Margaret Cancer Centre is a part) formed a company called Acumyn Inc. to market and distribute the product.  Already, one of the world’s largest radiation therapy companies, Elekta, has evaluated AQUA.  They were so impressed with the functionality that they have licensed the software and will be selling it under the license agreement to their customers around the world.  This partnership was announced at last year’s American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) annual meeting and to the European medical community at the European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology (ESTRO) annual meeting in April 2015.

Drs. Jaffray and Létourneau and the AQUA team are proud that their software technology will soon be used to benefit cancer patients in many other radiation centres around the world.
Other advances in radiation medicine made through our industry partnerships

Dr. Jaffray has also collaborated with Elekta in the integration of cone-beam CT imaging into radiation suites and radiation equipment.

For more information on AQUA, please contact:

Mark Taylor,
Director of Commercialization, Techna,
UHN Technology Development & Commercialization
Dr. Ferhan Bulca,
CEO Acumyn Inc.
T: 416-854-6599