University of Groningen physicist prof. Sytze Brandenburg is developing a prototype device that allows doctors to immediately evaluate three-dimensionally a radiotherapy treatment with proton beams. Now, doctors are forced to do that with a large number of two-dimensional measurements, which is very time consuming.
Proton therapy is a radiotherapy treatment of tumors in which proton beams are shot in the tumor tissue. The protons target the tumor tissue and can be aimed very accurately so that the surrounding healthy tissue is much less damaged than with other treatments. During such a treatment many thousands of proton beams are used. The beams have different energies, so that they can penetrate deeper or less deep in the tumor tissue.
Beforehand doctors make a "treatment plan" in which they specify exactly how many proton beams are fired at each site of the tumor, and the energy of each bundle. Then a clinical physicist checks if the bundles will actually reach the desired spots. The inspection is performed by firing the proton beams according to the treatment plan into a water tank. The tank contains a radiation-sensitive array at a certain depth, that captures the radiation pattern at that depth. This measurement has to be repeated at a large number of depths, usually every centimeter, to obtain a three-dimensional image.
Brandenburg now wants to develop a new variant of the tank that allows the capturing of a three-dimensional image of the radiation pattern in a single measurement. The practical utility of the method will be tested with the prototype in clinics that are specialized in proton therapy.
The project is supported financially with an STW-Demonstrator grant.
Please contact Jos Winkelman, Research & Valorisation
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