This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site you agree to our use of cookies. To find out more, see our Privacy and Cookies policy.
Skip to the content

Share this

Free weekly newswire

Sign up to receive all our latest news direct to your inbox.

Physics on film

100 Second Science Your scientific questions answered simply by specialists in less than 100 seconds.

Watch now

Bright Recruits

At all stages of your career – whether you're an undergraduate, graduate, researcher or industry professional – brightrecruits.com can help find the job for you.

Find your perfect job

Physics connect

Are you looking for a supplier? Physics Connect lists thousands of scientific companies, businesses, non-profit organizations, institutions and experts worldwide.

Start your search today

Blog

Proton therapy is for the masses

Drawing of the proposed proton-therapy facility

Drawing of the proposed proton-therapy facility. (Courtesy: Umar Masood)

By Hamish Johnston

In the 25th anniversary issue of Physics World, I made the bold assertion that laser acceleration will bring particle therapy to the masses by removing the need for treatment centres to have large and expensive accelerators. Instead, therapeutic beams of protons and other charged particles will be made using compact and relatively inexpensive lasers.

Now, medical physicist Umar Masood and colleagues at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) and the University of Dresden have published plans for a laser-driven proton-therapy facility.

Pictured in the drawing above, the facility is about half the size of a conventional accelerator-based unit. An important feature of the device is that it delivers a proton beam with a much wider spread of energies than an accelerator. While this is not ideal for conventional treatment methods, Masood points out that it could actually be an advantage.

Mono-energetic proton beams are used for treating some cancers because they kill tumours while sparing the surrounding healthy tissue. This is because most of the lethal energy of the protons is delivered to tissue at a very specific depth under the skin. Therapy often involves changing the energy of the beam, which changes the depth at which the lethal energy is delivered and ensures that the entire tumour is destroyed. In principle, a laser-generated proton beam with a wider spread of energy would kill tumour cells over a wider range of depths, thereby eliminating the need to scan the beam energy.

The high-energy protons themselves are created by firing laser pulses at a gaseous target that’s only a few millimetres in size. The challenge for Masood was to reduce the size of the “gantry”, which focuses and guides the protons to the patient. While gantries in accelerator-based systems can be the size of a small house, the pulsed nature of a laser system means that its gantry could be made much smaller.

But there is much more work to be done, including the development of compact-yet-powerful gantry magnets that operate in a pulsed mode. Researchers must also work out ways of boosting the energy of the laser-accelerated protons, which is currently not high enough for some therapeutic applications.

You can read more about Masood’s design here and in this paper published in Applied Physics B.

My predictions for laser-driven proton therapy and other promising physics spin-offs are in an article called “Physics for our future”. It begins on page 52 of the October 2013 issue of Physics World, which you can download a PDF of here. And there is much more about particle therapy in our article “Damage limitation”.

This entry was posted in General and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

4 comments

  1. M. Asghar

    The Laser-driven Ion Beam Therapy (L-IBT) is, indeed, an attractive alternative to the conventional particle therapy facilities. However, this system has to overcome the present lack of enough proton beam intensity and beam energy.

  2. Trackback: Physics Viewpoint | Proton therapy is for the masses

  3. zahid syed

    dear sir, i need one answer of this question if you help i am very thankful to you.
    question: Red light of wavelenght 6400 A is made to fall in sodium metal with work function of 2.46 eV.
    Eplain why no photocurrent can be observed?

  4. Great beat ! I would like to apprentice while you amend your
    site, how could i subscribe for a blog website? The account helped
    me a acceptable deal. I had been tiny bit
    acquainted of this your broadcast provided bright clear
    idea

Leave a comment

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Guidelines

  • Comments should be relevant to the article and not be used to promote your own work, products or services.
  • Please keep your comments brief (we recommend a maximum of 250 words).
  • We reserve the right to remove excessively long, inappropriate or offensive entries.

Show/hide formatting guidelines

Tag Description Example Output
<a> Hyperlink <a href="http://www.google.com">google</a> google
<abbr> Abbreviation <abbr title="World Health Organisation" >WHO</abbr> WHO
<acronym> Acronym <acronym title="as soon as possible">ASAP</acronym> ASAP
<b> Bold <b>Some text</b> Some text
<blockquote> Quoted from another source <blockquote cite="http://iop.org/">IOP</blockquote>
IOP
<cite> Cite <cite>Diagram 1</cite> Diagram 1
<del> Deleted text From this line<del datetime="2012-12-17"> this text was deleted</del> From this line this text was deleted
<em> Emphasized text In this line<em> this text was emphasised</em> In this line this text was emphasised
<i> Italic <i>Some text</i> Some text
<q> Quotation WWF goal is to build a future <q cite="http://www.worldwildlife.org/who/index.html">
where people live in harmony with nature and animals</q>
WWF goal is to build a future
where people live in harmony with nature and animals
<strike> Strike text <strike>Some text</strike> Some text
<strong> Stronger emphasis of text <strong>Some text</strong> Some text
WordPress Appliance - Powered by TurnKey Linux