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Scientists make progress on new charged particle therapy for cancer

Significant progress made on new cancer therapy
Physics of neutron capture enhanced particle therapy. As ions in the beam traverse tissues proximal to the target, some undergo nuclear interactions with target matter, creating a variety of nuclear fragmentation products, including neutrons, which disperse in the body and thermalize. Credit: International Journal of Radiation Oncology*Biology*Physics (2024). DOI: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2024.02.052

ANSTO researchers have made significant progress on a new approach to cancer treatment Neutron Capture Enhanced Particle Therapy (NCEPT), which has the potential to improve outcomes for patients with deeply situated, diffuse tumors.

The results of their study published in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology*Biology*Physics demonstrate that the addition of capture agents to cancer cells during carbon and helium ion beam irradiation resulted in a three- to five-times greater reduction in cancer cell survival and delayed growth cell survival and growth in-vitro, compared to ion radiation alone.

The study, led by a team of researchers at ANSTO with collaborators from University of Wollongong, University of Sydney and the National Institutes for Quantum Sciences and Technology (Japan) confirms that internally generated neutrons could be used to effectively target micro-infiltrates and cancer cells outside of the defined treatment regions.

"Our results show the potential for NCEPT to provide an increased dose to tumor tissue within the treatment volume while reducing radiation doses to off-target tissue," said Assoc. Prof. Mitra Safavi-Naeini, project lead and corresponding author of the study. "This could lead to better outcomes for patients with challenging cancers, such as brain tumors, that are difficult to treat with conventional therapies."

This innovative approach could have a significant impact on the treatment of a wide range of cancers, improving outcomes and quality of life for patients worldwide.

The between ANSTO and Japan's National Institute for Quantum Science and Technology (QST) is crucial in the development of NCEPT. Leveraging the expertise and resources of multiple domestic and international institutions contributed to the recent advancement.

The researchers used two different neutron capture agents, [10B]-BPA and [157Gd]-DOTA-TPP, in their experiments with human glioblastoma cells. They found that cells treated with these agents showed significantly reduced survival and delayed growth when irradiated with carbon and helium ion beams, compared to cells not treated with the agents.

The study also highlighted the potential for NCEPT to be applied to a wider range of deeply situated and diffuse tumors, by targeting radiation dose to micro-infiltrates and cells outside of defined treatment regions.

"We believe that NCEPT represents a new paradigm in charged ," said Nicholas Howell, the study's first author.

"By combining the spatial and temporal precision of charged particle therapy with the biochemical targeting of neutron capture therapy, we can achieve a remarkably high specificity of energy deposition within and tissues."

"This could lead to improved outcomes for patients with cancers that are currently difficult to treat effectively."

The development of NCEPT represents a significant step forward in addressing the constant need for innovative and disruptive technologies to improve long term survival and the quality of life for cancer patients.

The team is now planning further research to evaluate the efficacy of NCEPT in vivo and to explore its potential for clinical translation.

At the present time, particle therapy is not available in Australia but the Australian Bragg Center for Proton Therapy and Research (the Bragg Center) in Adelaide is under construction and expected to commence operations in 2024–25.

Earlier this year, the group published the first experimental demonstration of real-time neutron capture discrimination in helium and carbon ion therapy in a paper in Scientific Reports.

There are two patents associated with the approach.

More information: Nicholas Howell et al, Neutron Capture Enhances Dose and Reduces Cancer Cell Viability in and out of Beam During Helium and Carbon Ion Therapy, International Journal of Radiation Oncology*Biology*Physics (2024). DOI: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2024.02.052

Citation: Scientists make progress on new charged particle therapy for cancer (2024, May 10) retrieved 15 July 2024 from
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