Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

MIT proton treatment could replace x-ray use in radiation therapy

29.08.2006
Scientists at MIT, collaborating with an industrial team, are creating a proton-shooting system that could revolutionize radiation therapy for cancer. The goal is to get the system installed at major hospitals to supplement, or even replace, the conventional radiation therapy now based on x-rays.

The fundamental idea is to harness the cell-killing power of protons -- the naked nuclei of hydrogen atoms -- to knock off cancer cells before the cells kill the patient. Worldwide, the use of radiation treatment now depends mostly on beams of x-rays, which do kill cancer cells but can also harm many normal cells that are in the way.

What the researchers envision -- and what they're now creating -- is a room-size atomic accelerator costing far less than the existing proton-beam accelerators that shoot subatomic particles into tumors, while minimizing damage to surrounding normal tissues. They expect to have their first hospital system up and running in late 2007.

Physicist Timothy Antaya, a technical supervisor in MIT's Plasma Science and Fusion Center, was deeply involved in developing the new system and is now working to make it a reality. He argues it "could change the primary method of radiation treatment" as the new machines are put in place.

The beauty of protons is that they are quite energetic, but their energy can be controlled so they do less collateral damage to normal tissues, compared to powerful x-ray beams. Protons enter the body through skin and tissue, hit the tumor and stop there, minimizing other damage.

Protons are far more massive than the photons in x-rays, and the x-rays tend to pass directly through tissues and can harm living cells along the entire path. The side effects often include skin burns and other forms of tissue damage.

The new machines, in fact, should allow radiation specialists to deposit a far bigger dose of killing power inside the tumor, but spare more of the surrounding normal tissues. This is expected to increase tumor control rates while minimizing side effects.

Because of their high energy and controllability, protons have been used as anti-cancer bullets in the past, with promising results. But medical centers can't easily come up with the $100 million or more needed to build a proton machine dedicated to this medical use. That's because protons are produced inside the huge, expensive atomic accelerators that are usually employed at major atomic research centers, including national laboratories.

Now, Antaya and his colleagues at MIT and at Still River Systems Inc. think they can provide the new machine for far less money, have it occupy just one moderate-size hospital treatment room, and achieve better results than x-ray therapy. MIT is licensing the technology to Still River Systems.

Industry is already showing acute interest in the new technology because more than half of all cancer patients are now treated with radiation, meaning there are two million radiation patients worldwide. That offers a huge market for an effective new radiation system, and the directors of major cancer research and treatment centers are already enthusiastic, Antaya said.

Antaya recalled that the initial push to build a new proton-making system came from a radiation physicist, Kenneth Gall, at the University of Texas at Dallas Medical Center. "He had a good idea for a single-room proton treatment facility, but hadn't found anyone who thought it was possible to build," Antaya said. Gall is now at Still River Systems as a co-founder.

In his own research experience, Antaya had worked with new types of cyclotrons -- they were called "atom smashers" years ago -- using new "superconducting" coils to generate the necessary magnetic fields. As a result, he could see a "nexus between all the required technologies and how we could pick a reasonable set of properties, with a good chance of being successful," he said.

Building it is quite a challenge, however. "This is an accelerator that's going to be in the room with the patient, so it's quite a difficult design exercise" just in terms of safety issues, Antaya said. But he and his colleagues are betting it will work as expected.

The magnet work of the Technology and Engineering Division of the Plasma Science and Fusion Center, led by senior research engineer Joseph Minervini, is key to the new system. That work has been funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Fusion Energy Science.

Elizabeth A. Thomson | MIT News Office
Further information:
http://www.mit.edu

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Microgel powder fights infection and helps wounds heal
14.11.2018 | Michigan Technological University

nachricht Spread of deadly eye cancer halted in cells and animals
13.11.2018 | Johns Hopkins Medicine

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

Im Focus: Coping with errors in the quantum age

Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly

The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Epoxy compound gets a graphene bump

14.11.2018 | Materials Sciences

Microgel powder fights infection and helps wounds heal

14.11.2018 | Health and Medicine

How algae and carbon fibers could sustainably reduce the athmospheric carbon dioxide concentration

14.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>