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Home > iSGTW - 14 July 2010 > Feature - RadiotherapyGrid

Feature - RadiotherapyGrid

Gamma-ray map for treatment. Image courtesy BEinGRID

Cancer is Europe’s second largest cause of death. One of the most common and effective treatments is external radiotherapy, where a Linear Accelerator (Linac) attacks the cancerous tissue with radiation delivered from several different directions. The treatment plan — the direction, size and length of dosages — has to be carefully calculated to avoid damaging healthy tissue. These calculations can take a long time — speeding up this process would allow earlier treatment and more patients to be treated.

RadiotherapyGrid is a solution based on grid technology that helps hospitals plan the best possible treatment for each patient. It has two core functions: verification of plans using accurate — but computationally expensive — techniques; and searching for the optimal treatments. These tools improve the efficiency and effectiveness of planned treatments as well as reducing the overall cost of treatment planning. The platform can also be easily extended with further tools and algorithms as new techniques are developed.

RadiotherapyGrid produces results much quicker than hospitals are currently used to by exploiting the enormous computational resources found on the grid. In order to make the process of contracting grid resources transparent to the user, automatic Service Level Agreement (SLA) negotiation is required. This is achieved through the use of the SLA Negotiator component developed as part of the BEinGRID project. Given the confidential nature of the treatments and the expensive hardware involved, it is essential that no unauthorised access to the services or data occurs. This is ensured in RadiotherapyGrid through the use of the Vordel XML Gateway 5 and Axiomatics Policy Server 3 software. These packages validate common capabilities identified in BEinGRID.

As well as producing results more quickly, the solution also frees treatment facilities from the need to invest in expensive hardware required to do the calculations in-house, resulting in substantial cost savings.

The demand for RadiotherapyGrid is potentially very large; within the EU alone there are 980 radiotherapy centers and this is expected to increase. RadiotherapyGrid will be primarily marketed as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform at these institutions, but may also be sold as a product bundled with HPC hardware resources.

High-level architecture of RadiotherapyGrid. (Click to enlarge.) Image courtesy BEinGrid


The outsourcing of processing to a grid resource provider has multiple advantages:

• The algorithms used to verify and optimize a radiation treatment plan (see previouls iSGTW story Grids for optimizing cancer radiotherapy treatment) can be executed much quicker and to a greater degree of accuracy. The power of cheap, commodity components can be combined to provide vastly more processing power than is available inside a hospital, resulting in faster calculations at a reduced price.

• Hosting of the computing resources is outsourced to a third-party, which reduces the overheads for hospitals. Advanced computing is not related to the hospital’s central mission and they may not be able to afford the initial outlay required for such large computing resources. Also, the hospital no longer requires specialized technicians to take care of the hardware resources, reducing the total cost of the service.

• The proprietary or service contract model is replaced with a pay-for-use model. The hosting company uses the same machines for multiple clients and so has multiple revenue sources for the same costs. At the same time, this makes it much more economical for the hospitals, who can adapt usage to both budgets and demand by scaling up or down as necessary.

• Hospitals will have access to new services faster. A service provider can implement and deploy new developments coming from advanced research, providing all hospitals with access within a short time-frame. This will speed up the adoption of new radiotherapy.

—Adapted from BEinGRID

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