Radiotherapy doses to be more accurate

Radiotherapy can treat a range of cancers such as breast, head, neck, prostate, and lung. Credit: iStockphoto

Cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy treatments in future will be safer thanks to a collaborative piece of research by NPL, the University of Montreal, and McGill University which will result in improved measurement consistency.

Radiotherapy treats cancer by focusing beams of ionising on a , which kills by damaging their . For treatment to be effective, the delivery of radiation needs to be very tightly controlled – too much dose could damage surrounding healthy tissue, too little may cause the tumour to grow again.

As measurement experts, NPL is very active in the field of dosimetry, and has published the results of a collaborative project (On charged particle equilibrium violation in external photon fields) in the journal Medical Physics, which was selected to be highlighted by the journal's editor.

In this paper, NPL and collaborators at Canada's McGill University and the University of Montreal report a misconception on how charged particles (ionising electrons) are distributed locally whilst delivering a uniform dose to a tumour using a special form of radiotherapy called 'intensity modulated radiotherapy' (IMRT).

Identifying this misconception allows for much improved correction factor calculations for ionisation chambers and other detectors used in IMRT, and therefore will safeguard who receive this form of treatment in future.

Dr Hugo Palmans, a principal research scientist in NPL's Acoustics & Ionising Radiation Division, said:

"This work will impact a range of radiotherapy treatment options, such as TomoTherapy, CyberKnife, and volumetric arc therapy – as we now have a better understanding of how the complex fields of charged particles produced by these therapies are distributed. Medical physicists can now calculate improved values of correction factors for their IMRT detectors which will greatly improve their safety and effectiveness."

NPL's involvement in this research was funded by the National Measurement System, and is part of a much larger multi-disciplinary effort to make radiotherapy safer than ever.

More information: Read the full paper: On charged particle equilibrium violation in external photon fields, Med. Phys. 39, 1473 (2012)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NPL unveils new equipment to make cancer treatment safer

Nov 14, 2008

A new piece of medical technology unveiled at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) today will help improve the success rates of radiotherapy cancer treatments. The new clinical electron linear accelerator (linac) will help ...

Project to improve radiotherapy planning

Jan 30, 2012

A collaborative project between physicists, oncologists and computer scientists at Oxford and Cambridge Universities, launched last month, will develop improved tools for the planning of high precision radiotherapy. ...

Recommended for you

Growing a blood vessel in a week

Oct 24, 2014

The technology for creating new tissues from stem cells has taken a giant leap forward. Three tablespoons of blood are all that is needed to grow a brand new blood vessel in just seven days. This is shown ...

Testing time for stem cells

Oct 24, 2014

DefiniGEN is one of the first commercial opportunities to arise from Cambridge's expertise in stem cell research. Here, we look at some of the fundamental research that enables it to supply liver and pancreatic ...

Team finds key signaling pathway in cause of preeclampsia

Oct 23, 2014

A team of researchers led by a Wayne State University School of Medicine associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology has published findings that provide novel insight into the cause of preeclampsia, the leading cause ...

Rapid test to diagnose severe sepsis

Oct 23, 2014

A new test, developed by University of British Columbia researchers, could help physicians predict within an hour if a patient will develop severe sepsis so they can begin treatment immediately.

User comments