Heidelberg University Hospital’s Heidelberg Ion Beam Therapy Center (HIT) started up its unique beam guide system (gantry), the only one of its kind in the world, at a festive ceremony on October 29, 2012. The 25-meter-long 360° rotating beam guide system can deliver heavy ions or protons to irradiate tumors very precisely and effectively from any angle, even if the tumors are located deep inside the body or at places surrounded by tissue that is highly sensitive to radiation. The first three patients, all of whom have brain tumors, underwent radiation therapy with the gantry on October 19, 2012.
The gantry at the Heidelberg Ion Beam Therapy Center (HIT) is a 360° rotating beam delivery system for heavy ions. The world’s only such facility, the gantry is a gigantic steel construction weighing 670 tons. It is 25 meters long, 13 meters in diameter and spans three stories. Photo: Heidelberg University Hospital
“The Heidelberg Ion Beam Therapy Center (HIT) is one of the world’s most innovative research and treatment facilities for cancer,” said Prof. Annette Schavan, German Minister of Education and Research, at the dedication ceremony for the start-up of the gantry. “Clinical studies and basic research will deliver important findings about the efficacy of heavy ion and proton irradiation in different tumors in the coming years.” The gantry will enhance Germany’s leading role here in Heidelberg in providing radiotherapy for cancer patients, Schavan added.
Treatment at HIT is part of the therapy concept of the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT), which is jointly operated by Heidelberg University Hospital and the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ). The concept aims to provide interdisciplinary, individually tailored cancer treatment for every cancer patient. “Our collaboration enables us to translate the results of basic research into new treatment concepts. This also applies to the ongoing advances in radiotherapy at HIT,” said Prof. Guido Adler, Chief Medical Director of Heidelberg University Hospital.
Clinical studies compare the efficacy of the different ion beamsHIT is Europe’s first combined treatment facility where patients can undergo radiation therapy with both protons and with various heavy ions (carbon, helium and oxygen ions). This allows comparative clinical studies to be performed. “For certain tumor diseases in which conventional therapy is not successful, clinical studies will be conducted over the next few years to investigate which type of radiation therapy yields better cure rates, therapy with protons or with heavy ions,” explained Prof. Jürgen Debus, Medical Director of the Department of Radiation Oncology and Radiotherapy at Heidelberg University Hospital and of HIT. The aim is to determine which heavy ions have the best therapeutic effect for the individual tumor diseases.
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