With the mission of creating “a world without fear of cancer,” Varian Medical Systems has been a leader in oncology research for the past 70 years. With a success rate as high as 90% in the fight against nasopharyngeal cancer and with its technology used by some three million patients each year, it is well on the way to accomplishing its motto.
Varian is the leading provider of medical equipment and software for cancer treatment. Although the company is best-known for its innovations in radiotherapy, Varian’s portfolio is extensive – radiosurgery, proton therapy, data analysis, and image management, to name a few areas – in order to provide comprehensive treatment.
“In 2017, we made a large decision to transform the entire company from a single radiotherapy service provider to a full-platform service provider for cancer diagnosis and treatment,” says Dr. Zhang Xiao, the corporate vice president and chairman of Varian Medical Systems in Taiwan. “New technologies for the treatment of various cancers and how to integrate these new technologies have become the main direction of our company’s future development.”
Expanding its worldwide presence to Taiwan, Varian recently acquired Cooperative CL Enterprises (COOP), its partner in distributing radiotherapy equipment of over 40 years. With this acquisition, Varian now has the ability to reach Taiwan’s radiotherapy industry more directly. Taiwan is an important area of interest for Varian. On average, a patient is diagnosed with cancer every four minutes and 58 seconds on the island, meaning nearly 100,000 new patients are diagnosed each year.
Varian’s plans for Taiwan are larger than just distribution. The global brand plans to establish a series of training centers and clinical schools to further research in the region’s advanced oncology research field. The marriage of Taiwan’s comprehensive medical system and existing research infrastructure to Varian’s decades of experience and resources is an exciting step for both the company and cancer patients in Taiwan.
“Taiwan’s radiotherapy community can jointly develop newer treatment technologies, which can both start in Taiwan and serve Taiwan,” says Dr. Zhang. “The cultivation and continued development of the country’s radiological talents can be rooted and used in Taiwan with the most advanced technology and means.”
In terms of medical manpower, the ratio of doctors to cancer patients in Taiwan is one to 83,000, on par with the U.S. and better than Japan and China. Varian hopes to continue to equip Taiwan’s abundance of skilled medical professionals with the highest and most advanced grade of machinery.
The latest steps in Varian’s technological development are its forays into the fields of proton therapy. Proton therapy allows treatment to be delivered precisely to the tumor area required. Paired with Varian’s sophisticated imaging systems, proton therapy has allowed maximum preservation of existing healthy cells within the patient due to the highly targeted delivery of the treatment.
One example of Varian’s work in proton therapy is its ProBeam system. ProBeam has a pencil beam scanning system that is recognized worldwide for its innovative approach. With unprecedented levels of accuracy and precision, ProBeam is able to deliver high doses while sparing healthy tissue and exposing the patient to lower levels of radiation.
The incorporation of Artificial Intelligence and Big Data into cancer care is another area that Varian is developing. From diagnosis to treatment, artificial intelligence can help improve the patient experience in terms of both efficiency and accuracy.
“Varian’s development directions are focused on multi-study and multi-method integration in the first five years,” says Dr. Zhang. “The next five years are based on the existing multidisciplinary development, using Big Data and Artificial Intelligence.”
This multidisciplinary approach includes collaboration between doctors and technology. The amount of data that is accessible, especially in Taiwan’s national health insurance system, provides researchers and medical professionals with a previously unimaginable database.
One important application of artificial intelligence is ensuring that treatment quality is identical across the board. All cancer patients must be treated equally, regardless of wealth or status.
“I know that Mr. Wang in Taipei and Mr. Li in Hengchun have the same diseases, but how do I know that the treatment they receive is the same?” says Dr. K.S. Clifford Chao, chairman of the Taiwan Radiation Oncology Society. “We are committed to using artificial intelligence to give patients the same quality of treatment regardless of whether they are in the metropolis or in a less developed area.”
Looking to the future, Varian’s mission is continuing to develop innovative technology while driving down the costs for patients. Early diagnosis, efficient treatment plans, and accessible care are top priorities. In the coming years, Varian will work with hospitals, universities, and research facilities in Taiwan to ensure that patients have access to the most advanced care. As Varian continues to expand locally and globally, a world without fear of cancer seems closer than ever.