Varian Medical Systems Inc.: Radiating Innovation

Nov. 1, 2007
Cutting-edge cancer treatment technology plants seeds of hope and business growth.

The National Cancer Institute estimates that in 2007 218,890 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in the United States. It's a disease that's gained increased attention with advancements made in screenings and treatments. A key player in many of these treatments is Palo Alto, Calif.-based medical-device manufacturer Varian Medical Systems Inc.

Varian continues to build on its portfolio of innovative products related to X-rays and radiation treatments of cancer. Recently, the IndustryWeek 50 Best Manufacturer for 2007 introduced an advanced radiotherapy technology at a radiology and oncology conference that took place the week of Oct. 28 and said it plans to work with another company to develop technology for prostate cancer treatments.

The announcements came less than a week after the company reported a fourth-quarter profit decline of 4.5%. The company's net income for the quarter was $78.7 million, or 61 cents per share, compared with $82.4 million, or 62 cents per share, earned during the year-earlier period. Varian's buyouts of ACCEL proton therapy and Bio-Imaging Research reduced profit by 2 cents per share for the quarter.

Despite the profit decline, sales were strong for the company's oncology systems division, which is responsible for two of Varian's newest developments.

Varian has partnered with Envisioneering Medical Technologies to produce a unique brachytherapy treatment system. Brachytherapy is a treatment that involves the use of small, metal radioactive rods, or "seeds," that are placed into the affected prostate.

The two companies are configuring Envisoneering's 3-D diagnostic treatment system with Varian brachytherapy treatment software to produce 3-D ultrasound technology and a stabilized probe that link into the VariSeed real-time planning software. Unlike other methods that don't utilize a stationary probe, this process prevents the prostate from shifting, which can lead to inaccurate or ineffective seed placement.

"We can now automatically transport 3-D prostate ultrasound images into our VariSeed system to plan and assess where seeds are placed and know with certainty how effectively the gland was treated," said Ted Jackson, Varian's chief developer of the VariSeed software, in a statement. "This represents the next evolution in prostate cancer treatment."

The radiotherapy technology that the company introduced in October during the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology conference will speed up the process of intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). The product, called RapidArc, can deliver IMRT up to eight times faster than conventional helical IMRT (tomotherapy) can, according to Varian.

Varian Medical Systems Inc.
At A Glance

Varian Medical Systems Inc.
Palo Alto, Calif.
Primary Industry: Machinery
Number of Employees: 3,900
2006 In Review
Revenue: $1.6 billion
Profit Margin: 15.34%
Sales Turnover: 1.06
Inventory Turnover: 5.27
Revenue Growth: 15.57%
Return On Assets: 18.60%
Return On Equity: 37.19%

"IMRT treatments that typically require at least 10 minutes can be completed in less than two," said Dow Wilson, president of Varian's oncology systems business. "More importantly, our dose-distribution studies show that RapidArc can enable more conformal delivery of the treatment beam, allowing more concentrated doses on tumors while protecting more of the surrounding healthy tissues. This is a tremendous benefit for patients and doctors alike."

Days after announcing the new development Varian said The London Clinic will be the first UK hospital to offer RapidArc treatments.

The company's efforts to provide cutting-edge cancer treatments hasn't gone unnoticed. Varian reports that it ranked first in a 2007 survey for overall performance in the radiation oncology industry. The ServiceTrak 2007 survey ranked Varian first in 15 out of 34 categories, including overall service performance, overall satisfaction with the manufacturer, effectiveness in resolving problems and reliability of hardware.

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