High-precision proton therapy

What makes proton therapy different to ‘conventional’ radiotherapy? The difference lies in the physical properties of protons, which differ fundamentally from those of the photons normally used for radiotherapy. This allows the effect of the radiation to be very precisely limited to the tumour itself. This increased precision of the radiation dose requires a similar level of precision in the implementation of the therapy.

Researchers at HollandPTC are working on technical innovations that make it possible to make optimum use of the special properties of protons. The common objective of these innovations is precise planning of the radiotherapy based on information about the tumour obtained, for example, from MRI or CT scans (image guidance). The researchers hope this will maximise the effect of protons on cancer cells while at the same time minimising damage to healthy cells.

The research questions include: How can we improve the response to movements of the tumour and surrounding tissues during radiotherapy? How can we measure the radiation dose while it is actually being administered to the tumour? How can we adapt the radiotherapy plan during treatment to respond as effectively as possible to changes in the tumour and the surrounding tissue?

The ultimate goal is to reduce radiotherapy damage to healthy tissues to an absolute minimum.

The research is focusing on, among others, the following technologies:

Imaging techniques for mapping the body and the tumour
Motion tracking to follow movements of the tumour and organs during radiotherapy
Improved and more comfortable techniques for accurately positioning the patient during radiotherapy
Techniques for determining the received radiation dose in real time, i.e. during treatment
New algorithms to efficiently calculate the best treatment plan based on all available information
Adaptive radiotherapy techniques based on real-time measurements and control
Better and more efficient quality assurance systems