Hadrontherapy, a treatment for X-ray resistant cancers

February 9th, 2010
CNRS and ARCHADE have joined forces in order to develop hadrontherapy. This new radiotherapy technique is already used in certain cases to treat patients whose tumors are resistant to conventional X-ray radiotherapy. The results obtained are extremely promising. In order to widen its field of application, the researchers at IN2P3 will benefit from ARCHADE's resources, especially a machine based in Caen that will produce a hadron beam entirely dedicated to hadrontherapy research. The collaboration will take place within the framework of a recently created scientific consortium named 'Research and development in hadrontherapy'.

Hadrontherapy is a new radiotherapy technique which consists in using hadrons (usually protons or carbon ions) to destroy tumors. There are two advantages to carbon ion hadrontherapy compared with conventional X-ray radiotherapy: high ballistic precision (the hadrons are halted when they reach the tumor and thus cause less damage to healthy tissue), and more effective treatment of certain cancers (since hadrons do not interact with tumors in the same way as X-rays do).

Carbon ion hadrontherapy is currently used to treat patients who have inoperable tumors that are resistant to conventional radiotherapy. For the moment, only 5000 patients have benefited from this technique, mainly in two specialized centers in Japan. Results have been particularly promising, and the use of carbon ion hadrontherapy is rapidly growing worldwide. However, this rapid development also means that there is a considerable need for research and development in order to find out the best way of using carbon ion hadrontherapy to treat various types of tumor. Researchers need to develop new instruments for beam control and dosimetry, and study the interactions of carbon ion beams with healthy tissue and various kinds of tumor, in order to calculate with precision the radiation dose received by patients.

To meet these research needs, two partners, CNRS's IN2P3 and the ARCHADE association, have created a new scientific consortium named 'Research and development in hadrontherapy'. Around ten IN2P3 laboratories have been working for several years in the fields of instrumentation, biomedical modeling, and the use of nuclear medicine in the fight against cancer. Thanks to ARCHADE, the researchers will now have the use of a beam dedicated to research into medical applications. In four years' time, ARCHADE will have an entirely new technique for the acceleration of carbon ions, thanks to the first superconducting medical cyclotron able to accelerate carbon ions, designed and produced by the Belgian company IBA, the world leader in medical cyclotrons. This project will be used to validate the use of this kind of cyclotron for medical work, and also to carry out a program of innovative scientific research in nuclear physics, radiobiology and applied clinical research.

The areas of research that the 'Research and development in hadrontherapy' scientific consortium will especially be focusing on include the measurement of physical reference data, the development of instruments for beam control and measurement of absorbed dose, the development of new physical models, and the development of numerical simulation tools that are faster and more precise than existing tools.

Provided by CNRS

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