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Varian Medical Therapies Reach Milestones in U.S., Africa

Radiation treatment system clears FDA regulatory hurdle; first patient treated with RapidArc system in Africa.

Varian Medical Systems Inc. has begun 2011 with two developments that could help the company expand its treatments in the United States and Africa.

In the earlier announcement the Palo Alto, Calif., company said it received clearance from the Food and Drug Administration for its proton therapy system to treat tumors and other conditions requiring radiation treatment.

The company received 510(k) clearance from the FDA, which means the company's clinical customers will be able to treat patients as soon as their systems are established without the need to seek individual site-specific clearances, says Lester Boeh, Varian's vice president of emerging businesses.

"This will make it easier for customers to secure financing for their projects," Boeh says.

The treatment called, ProBeam, delivers protons that stop at specified depths within the area undergoing treatment to reduce the exposure of healthy tissue. The company says the system is the first radiotherapy treatment capable of delivering intensity modulated proton therapy using a precise delivery system called pencil beam scanning technology.

Scanning beam technology also eliminates the need to manually insert separate shaping accessories for each beam angle r to match the beam to the shape of the tumor, according to the company.

Meanwhile, a 66-year-old prostate cancer patient became the first person in Africa to be treated with Varian's RapidArc technology.

The treatment was administered in Pretoria, South Africa.

The RapidArc system delivers precise image-guided intensity modulated radiotherapy -- a type of radiation that shapes radiation beams closely the shape of the tumor -- up to four times faster than conventional methods, the company says.

"The first treatment went very smoothly and was completed in just two-and-a-half minutes," says Stanley Makgere, medical physicist in charge at Netcare Unitas Hospital where the treatment took place. "Our team has experience in many treatment methods, and we feel this is the best way to treat cancer patients with radiation because it is fast, precise and easy to use."

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