Triple threat: Varian, HP and Adaptiiv form 3D printing pact to improve radiation therapy

As any engineer can attest, the triangle is the strongest shape, and Varian Medical Systems, Adaptiiv Medical Technologies and HP have formed one of their own to take on the daunting task of improving radiation therapy for cancer.

Specifically, the trio is taking aim at traditional boluses, devices that mimic the structure of human tissue and are placed on top of the skin to control the dose of radiation delivered to a specific location.

Together, Varian, Adaptiiv and HP are planning to develop a new approach to creating patient-specific boluses. Their method will utilize 3D printing technology, automated design software and knowledge of the linear accelerators that deliver external beam radiation therapy.

Adaptiiv, the linchpin of the partnership, has built software that helps oncologists design extremely precise bolus models tailored to each patient’s anatomical and dosage needs. The software provides automated guidance throughout the design process, and the resulting product can then be sent to a 3D printer to construct the device.

That’s where HP comes in. The tech giant will contribute its 3D printing expertise to the partnership, offering up its Multi Jet Fusion platform to churn out flexible and high-quality boluses much more quickly than other manufacturing processes and at much lower cost.

Varian—the devicemaker acquired by Siemens Healthineers for a whopping $16.4 billion last year—is the developer of a line of radiotherapy machines. With its participation in the partnership, Adaptiiv will be able to broaden access to its personalized boluses by marketing the 3D printing technology to clinical users of Varian’s machines.

“This is a tremendous milestone for Adaptiiv’s vision to democratize personalization in radiation treatment,” said Alex Dunphy, the company’s chief executive. “Collaborating with brands like HP and Varian who stand for quality and innovation will ensure our solutions reach patients around the world. The last mile of radiation therapy needs to evolve, and our solutions provide greater access to personalized care while improving treatment and creating workflow efficiencies for cancer centers around the world.”

Adaptiiv’s software was cleared (PDF) by the FDA earlier this year, allowing it to be used to help design 3D-printed boluses for external beam radiation therapy and applicators for brachytherapy procedures, in which the radiation source is inserted inside the body.

The team-up comes as devicemakers around the world ramp up the use of 3D printers to customize their products and, in response, as the FDA steps up its efforts to regulate that futuristic approach to medtech development.

In a discussion paper published at the end of last year, the agency sought input from devicemakers and the public at large on a variety of potential situations that could arise in the future as 3D printing becomes more widespread in healthcare, including the establishment of all-in-one printing shops in healthcare facilities.