Applied Computational Technologies: Improving Radiation Therapy for Cancer Patients
What started as a conversation in church between two new members may change the face of radiation treatment forever. Engineer Andy Holland had an idea for a new way to improve radiation therapy but knew he didn’t have the business experience to get it going. Jay McClatchey was an experienced business executive with a technical background.
After the two met in church one day, they put their heads together and decided to form Applied Computational Technologies to develop a software product that improves both the speed and accuracy of radiation treatment.
“Preliminary tests proved that Andy’s idea had great potential, so we formed the company and submitted a patent application,” says McClatchey, who serves as president. Windber-based Applied Computational Technologies (AppCompTech) is now developing ProACTive, a next-generation dosage calculator to be used in radiation therapy for cancer.
ProACTive is a highly sophisticated software tool for radiation oncology professionals to determine how best to implement a course of treatment prescribed for a patient.
Overcoming the Limitations
Current radiation treatment planning software is a compromise between speed and accuracy, which imposes some serious limits on the treatment process, according to McClatchey. One of those limits is the inability to fully adapt radiation therapy to changes in the patient (such as tumor movement) throughout the average six-week treatment cycle.
“Here’s how it works,” says McClatchey. “The physician issues a prescription saying he wants to put a certain amount of radiation on the tumor site but minimize the dose that enters surrounding healthy tissue and organs. The dosimetrist then turns to a treatment planning system using ProACTive to develop an optimal treatment delivery plan for each patient based on the doctor’s prescription.” When the plan is completed, the system converts it into instructions for a radiation delivery machine known as a linear accelerator.
The Power of an “Enabling Technology”
“ProACTive is what we call an ‘enabling technology,’” says McClatchey. It plays a key role in bringing Adaptive Radiation Therapy to its full potential by allowing physicians to accurately re-plan as needed to maximize the effectiveness of treatment.
“With true adaptive therapy, anything about the treatment plan can be modified as needed,” McClatchey says. “Beam shape, intensity, delivery angles, and so on could all be adapted to address patient anatomy changes between treatments.”
The industry has been working to improve existing radiation dose calculation methods, but ProACTive is a “totally new technology” that resulted from the out-of-the-box thinking of McClatchey and Holland and their volunteer advisor, medical physicist David Cunningham, Ph.D.
“ProACTive combines a new process with more effective use of computer memory to balance and better utilize computing resources,” McClatchey says. “And it’s more than 100 times faster than any dose calculation competitor in its class at accurately calculating the dose generated by a linear accelerator beam.”
Investing with Confidence
AppCompTech has received funding from several different investors, including Ben Franklin Technology Partners (BFTP), which recently invested $100,000.
“We’re grateful for the investment we’ve received and really appreciate Ben Franklin’s recent support,” McClatchey says. “And while the funding is important, the business support is invaluable, and it’s delivered by great people with years of experience. Our overall business strategy has improved dramatically thanks to Ben Franklin’s guidance.”
BFTP also presented the company with the 2006 “Big Idea Business Planning Contest” award, which came with a cash prize of $35,000.
“It was a great honor to be this year’s winner, and we are very grateful,” McClatchey says. “Business planning is the key to success, and it’s already paid off for us. The money was great, but the recognition we received because of the award has opened up many new doors for us.”
Coming Soon to Market
Many more doors are likely to open as the company finishes ProACTive and puts it on the market in the summer of 2007. Approximately 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with prostate, breast, lung, or other forms of cancer each year, and two-thirds of them will receive radiation therapy.
“ProACTive is definitely worth the effort,” McClatchey says. “It’s worth it for AppCompTech, our advisors, and our investors, but most of all for cancer patients who will receive radiation therapy. Any tool that can improve the efficacy of radiation therapy will save lives.”
Keynotes February, 2007
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