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Researchers aim to improve flash therapy for X-ray and proton delivery

by Thomas Dworetzky, Contributing Reporter | December 13, 2018
Rad Oncology Proton Therapy

Another goal of the researchers is to devise innovative ways to manipulate proton beams that will make future devices simpler, more compact and much faster, according to SLAC staff scientist Emilio Nanni, who leads the project with Tantawi and Loo, adding that thanks to the DOE grant, “we can now move forward with designing, fabricating and testing an accelerator structure, similar to the one in the PHASER project, that will be capable of steering the proton beam, tuning its energy and delivering high radiation doses practically instantaneously.”

The hope is that the PHASER work could then lead to proton devices able to fit into a standard shipping container – allowing the approach to be used more widely around the globe.

“The first broadly-used medical linear accelerator design was invented and built at Stanford in the years leading up to the building of SLAC. The next generation could be a real game changer – in medicine and in other areas, such as accelerators for X-ray lasers, particle colliders and national security,” noted Tantawi.

Peter Maxim (now at Indiana University) co-invented PHASER at Stanford. Others involved in the proton therapy effort include Reinhard Schulte at Loma Linda University and Matthew Murphy of Varian Medical Systems.

In October, Varian’s new single-room proton therapy system was unveiled at the ASTRO Annual Meeting in San Antonio, along with the company’s research initiative involving flash therapy.

The ProBeam 360° cuts irradiation time of the ProBeam platform by 75 percent and offers a 30 percent smaller footprint than its predecessor, reducing vault construction costs by approximately 25 percent. Use of the system is expected to open access to potential next-generation treatments such as flash therapy, the focus of Varian’s new research group, the FlashForward Consortium.

“The average irradiation on a current ProBeam System is 45 seconds to 60 seconds. In your overall day, that’s not a huge chunk. But we’re able to reduce it by 75 percent, bringing a lot of the moving tumor irradiations to under five seconds,” Jan Timmer, U.S. director of PT marketing at Varian, told HCB News at the time. “For lung patients, you can do irradiation in one breath-hold. We think that will increase the use of protons in lungs and lung SBRT.”

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