Nucletron has long been a specialist for brachytherapy, a form of radiotherapy where radioactive seeds or sources are placed in or near the tumor while reducing the radiation exposure in the surrounding healthy tissues. This internal radiotherapy is commonly used as an effective treatment for different types of cancer.
The company was founded in the 1970s by Eric van’t Hooft, the inventor of the remote afterloader. Since 2011 it has been part of Elekta (www.elekta.com) and is now known as Elekta Brachytherapy.
“We are the market leader in brachytherapy,” stresses John Lapré, part of Elekta’s executive management. “All former Nucletron activities are integrated within Elekta as one of Elekta’s four businesses.”
Stockholm-based Elekta has close to 4,000 employees, turnover of 1.1 billion EUR and is the world’s number two in the radiotherapy market. Its aim has always been to be a partner and pioneer in cancer care. Elekta Brachytherapy has 220 employees in Veenendaal mainly working in R&D, product and clinical marketing and manufacturing, and a turnover of over 100 million EUR with an export share of 97%.
“As we work with radioactive isotopes in the medical device field, we have to deal with extremely strict regulations – high barriers to entry for newcomers in this field,” says Mr. Lapré. “We also develop different applicators such as tubes and needles which are inserted into predefined places in or close to the patient’s tumor.
The main part of our business is high-dose radiotherapy, which has to be used in a shielded room with concrete walls and exact treatment planning, as part of the clinical workflow is absolutely essential for the best patient outcomes.”
With Esteya®, Elekta has developed a new innovative therapy for nonmelanoma skin cancer, the most common type of cancer. “These cancers are mostly treated by surgery, which may be painful and leaves scars,” states Mr. Lapré. “Radiotherapy has been proven to be a good alternative, but it is governed by a radation oncologist while skin cancer patients generally see a dermatologist. They usually do not get referred to the radiotherapy department with its shielded rooms where they would sit next to a visibly ill cancer patient to await their turn. With Esteya, we developed a patient-friendly electronic brachytherapy solution whichrelies on a small, high-dose rate Xray source to apply radiation directly to the cancerous site. The machine is based on an X-ray tube, a bit like what a dentist has. It needs minimal shielding and can be used right in the dermatologist’s treatment room with only minimal adaptations. In other words, it can go where the patient is. Now, we have to show that the results are the same as traditional brachytherapy. Our aim will always be to offer patient-friendly solutions which improve quality of life during and after treatment.”