Recent work by Peter Dendooven and colleagues from the KVI-CART Medical Physics group results in a potentially new method to verify that a proton therapy irradiation is performed according to plan. Results on the production of short-lived positron emitting nuclides during proton therapy indicate that the very short-lived nuclide nitrogen-12, with a half-life of only 11 milliseconds, may allow verification on a time scale of about 0.1 second.
The article describing these results was chosen as a Featured Article by the editors and referees of the journal Physics in Medicine and Biology. Featured articles are high-quality articles selected for their novelty, high level of interest and potential impact on future research. As a result, the article is available free of charge to all at iopscience.
Also, the article forms the basis of a news story on medicalphysicsweb.
The verification of a proton therapy irradiation is essential to fully exploit the advantages with respect to dose deposition of protons over the commonly used photons. A dedicated implementation of positron emission tomography (PET, a standard imaging technique in hospitals) can be used for verification by looking at the positron emitting nuclides that are produced by the proton beam in the human body. However, the radioactive half-life of these isotopes results in a delay in obtaining the information on whether an irradiation is being performed according to plan or not. Because of this fact, several research groups around the world are working on devices to image prompt gamma rays; these are produced during the stopping of protons in the body and thus allow in principle immediate feedback. The new work has shown that a number of short-lived nuclides are produced in sufficient quantities to potentially allow feedback at a time scale shorter than 1 second using positron emission tomography.
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