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Cyber Knife-Leveraging the market through Blue Ocean strategies in Medical Device Industry

Cyber Knife – the name itself conjures images of scalpels, surgeries, or a knife that can launch a virtual attack; the name itself is tricky and innovative.

Well! Cyber knife is a medical device that is used for treating malignant tumors via non-invasive procedures. It provides a pain-free, non-surgical option for patients who have inoperable or surgically complex tumors. In fact, the Cyber Knife System is the world’s first and only robotic radiosurgery system designed to treat tumors throughout the body non-invasively. Robotic Radiosurgery System is a non-invasive alternative to surgery for the treatment of both cancerous and non-cancerous tumors by using high doses of radiation with extreme accuracy.

Going back to the evolution of Cyber knife:

Previously, full head radiation therapy was administered to patients suffering from brain tumor (cancer) irrespective of the location of the tumor in the head. This process was very cumbersome for the patients. Moreover, during this radiation process normal cells were also destroyed along with abnormal cells. A Targeted therapy that would target only cancerous cells was lacking. The treatment procedure had almost negligible accuracy and the treated area looked like it had been burnt thus causing a lot of discomfort to patients.
Later, a few companies started manufacturing face masks or head mask in order to mask the unaffected areas of the head. However, this technique did not work as the precision and accuracy required was very high.

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Then it was the era of the Gamma knife. Though the gamma knife targeted only the cancerous cells, the former was not easy to handle. This was because the Gamma knife was accompanied with a frame that proved to be too uncomfortable for patients in the long run. Moreover, the slightest movements of patients while coughing, sneezing or normal respiration reduced the accuracy & precision of radiation. Despite the invention of the gamma knife, the required precision to treat brain tumors was still lacking.

However, with the advent of the cyber knife, the above mentioned issues seem to have been resolved. The cyber knife destroys tumors with extremely precision and high doses of radiation while minimizing damage to healthy tissue. Thus the device offers the same accuracy as that of the surgeon’s scalpel.

This system was invented by John R Adler, solely manufactured by Accuray Inc. and has been patented for its unique image-guided system and robotic-arm delivery. Thanks to the cyber knife, Accuray Inc has become a renowned brand name in the medical device industry.

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Below are tabulated a few advantages of the cyber knife over its predecessors:

• The image guidance cameras in the Cyber Knife locate the position of the tumor in the body and uses a robotic arm to converge highly focused beams (pencil beams) of radiation at the tumor. Thus, the tumor receives a cumulative dose of radiation high enough to control or kill the tumor cells while minimizing radiation exposure to the surrounding healthy tissue.

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• Secondly the patient is not restricted in a cumbersome Head Frame, and he/she is positioned comfortably, Cyber Knife is the only system available that can also compensate for patient movement while ensuring highly accurate delivery of radiation during treatment.

Future Opportunities in the Cyber Knife Space:

By patenting and manufacturing the Cyber Knife, Accuray Inc has capitalized over the opportunities presented at that moment with a successful blue ocean strategy. Further, the firm will continue to enjoy monopoly in the market for some time. Accuray Inc’s success with the Cyber knife definitely churns out a few important lessons for its peers. Rather than just waiting for the expiry of patents, follower companies in medical technology should try their own innovative capabilities as there are many unexplored areas within this field. Also rather than battling out with the red ocean strategies, companies should innovate and enjoy the first mover advantage as demonstrated by Accuray Inc . Companies shouldn’t hesitate, while strategizing their smart moves, as for gaining big wins one needs to succumb to small strategic losses.

This blog is written by Lekha Gyanchandani, Sr Analyst with DART Consulting.

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