Fujitsu Laboratories, Ltd. in collaboration with researchers at the University of Toronto (U of T) today announced the development of a technology for dramatically streamlining the creation of radiation treatment plans for Gamma Knife(1) radiosurgery, leveraging Fujitsu’s quantum-inspired computing technology, the Digital Annealer, which rapidly solves combinatorial optimization problems.
Gamma Knife radiation therapies are used to treat illnesses including brain tumors and arteriovenous malformations. The process of creating treatment plans using conventional methods is often laborious and time-consuming, and doctors must spend time making painstaking and detailed adjustments to determine how much radiation should be administered to a target while minimizing dose to surrounding tissue. With the newly developed technology, however, medical professionals can create treatment plans in roughly one minute, maintaining the same level of accuracy as conventional methods, while simultaneously calculating a huge number of possible combination patterns of where and how much dose to deliver with the Digital Annealer.
By easing the burden on medical professionals in creating fast and accurate treatment plans, the new technology frees them to devote more time and energy to ensuring patients receive the most effective and humane care possible. Going forward, Fujitsu Laboratories and U of T researchers will continue to test the effectiveness of this technology based on additional patient data, and ultimately develop technologies that actively contribute to improvement of medical science and society at large.
Gamma Knife surgery is used to treat brain tumors and other conditions because of its relative non-invasiveness and highly precise method of delivery of radiation. By using 192 different sources of gamma radiation aimed at different points, the dose to the affected area can be maximized while the dose to the surrounding healthy organs is kept very low. Parameters including position, shape, and dose of radiation must be considered to achieve optimal dosage to the affected area. However, the number of potential combination patterns is enormous, and in current medical practice, doctors generate treatment plans by manually repeating parameter adjustments based on their previous experience. This process can take about 1.5 to 3 hours to generate a plan that meets the patient’s individual needs, placing a heavy burden on medical professionals.
While the physician is preparing the treatment plan, the patient may also need to wait, frequently with a frame fixed to their head to limit movement, which may cause some physical discomfort. It is also necessary to secure medical personnel to help to prepare patients for treatment and make sure the frame remains in place.
Recent years have witnessed the emergence of new tools to help ease this process–for instance, software that automates the generation of treatment plans. In the field, however, it often remains the case that the generated plan still requires clinicians to manually modify and adjust the plans.
Since 2017, Fujitsu and U of T have been collaborating in a strategic partnership centered on research relating to quantum computing. With this latest initiative, the parties have collaborated in the development of technology to help apply the use of the Digital Annealer for the generation of treatment plans for Gamma Knife therapies. Researchers at U of T and its medical institutions studied and developed methods to translate the Gamma Knife optimization to combinatorial optimization, a format understandable by the Digital Annealer technology developed by Fujitsu.