The Australian MRI-Linac at the Ingham Institute is a world-first research and technology project that will redefine and improve radiation treatment for cancer.
The centrepiece of the program is a 12-tonne high-tech device, that combines a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner and a radiotherapy linear accelerator (Linac) into one integrated system – the MRI-Linac.
This world-leading technology is housed in the Ingham Insitute’s research bunker within South West Sydney’s Cancer Therapy Centre at Liverpool Hospital.
The Ingham Institute is one of only four institutions in the world developing MRI-Linac technology. The Australian innovation includes many design and technology features unique to this device: it is the first high-field ‘inline’ system.
The program is enabling researchers to develop world-class solutions that will improve the effectiveness of radiation therapy for people living with cancer.
How the MRI-Linac works
Half of all cancer patients will need radiotherapy for a cure, to improve their chance of survival, or to relieve symptoms.
Radiotherapy treatment uses a Linear Accelerator to kill or damage tumours and stop them from growing. Still images of the patient and their cancerous tumour are taken prior to treatment, are used to help plan and guide the direction of the radiation beam. Unfortunately, this radiation process can also damage normal tissues that are subjected to the radiation beam during treatment.
An MRI scanner can display real time images of internal organs and tissues.
The MRI-Linac combines of these two technologies, a Linear Accelerator and an MRI scanner.
By combining these two devices, the MRI-Linac can monitor the movement of tumor locations caused by breathing, swallowing, and other normal body movements during treatment. Tumours can be treated with greater accuracy, reducing damage to surrounding healthy tissues in the body.
The new machine will also be able to pinpoint parts within the tumour that are most active and aggressive, so a higher dose of radiation can be delivered to those areas.
The MRI-Linac will set a new benchmark for cancer treatment, with the potential to dramatically reduce side effects and improve cancer treatment outcomes.
Watch a one-minute video animation that shows how the Australian MRI-Linac at the Ingham Institute works.
MRI-Linac research partners and collaborators
The Australian MRI-Linac is located at the Ingham Institute who, together with Liverpool Hospital, provide the infrastructure and oversight of the program.
The research program is embedded into Liverpool Hospital and involves collaboration between numerous of universities and scientific organisations including:
The program has received funding from:
Australian Government Health & Hospitals Fund
National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)
Radiation Oncology Trust Fund for Liverpool & Macarthur Cancer Therapy and
South Western Sydney Local Health District
Key milestones of the MRI-Linac project
January 2010 Received initial funding from the Australian Government Health & Hospitals Fund
July 2011 Awarded the construction contract for the research bunker
March 2012 Completed construction of the research bunker
2013-2015 Installed linear accelerator and infrastructure
November 2015 (Phase I) Installed 1.5 Tesla ex-clinical MRI
December 2015 Conducted first beam-on image of the first prototype system
April 2016 (Phase II) Installed 1T Split Bore Agilent magnet
May - December 2016 Installed MRI RF and gradient coils
February 2017 Successfully integrated all components of the split bore MRI
February 2017 Conducted first beam-on image of second prototype system
April 2017 First human images obtained
May 2017 Conducted first real-time imaging and combined Linac control
January 2019 FIRST USE OF AN MRI-LINAC IN SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE - Conducted first live treatment with image guidance in animals.
2020 Completed the first animal treatment study with radiation enhancing nanoparticles on the MRI-Linac
2022 First cancer patient images were obtained including real-time imaging of tumour motion. These patient images have been used to develop real-time tumour tracking.
February 2023 MANTRA patient treatment trial open for recruitment of patients with metastatic cancer for the first MRI-Linac patient treatments
The Australian MRI-Linac is one of hundreds of research and development projects underway at the Ingham Institute, where we are developing new ways to inspire health and transform care in our community.
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