Improving proton therapy at the coffee machine

If you put ten scientists of various backgrounds into a room and tell them to ‘come up with something smart’, you won’t achieve much. But if you build a dedicated care facility where they can mingle and provide a coffee machine to top it off, you may spark flashes of brilliance. That’s how HollandPTC inspired a TU Delft physicist and an LUMC radiation-oncologist to come up with the idea of measuring protons inside a cancer patient – during the delivery of the proton radiotherapy treatment.

Proton radiotherapy already has a mind boggling accuracy of only a few millimeters. Using highly advanced ‘intelligent’ PET detectors, the researchers aim to improve this accuracy even further. It will be the protons themselves who, by creating just a tiny bit of radiation inside the patient, tell the story of where they stop and deliver most of their cell-killing radiation dose. It will take a few years to get there, but eventually this advanced radiation treatment will spare the healthy organs surrounding the tumour even better, reducing unwanted side-effects even further. Read more about the visualisation of protons during the radiotherapy treatment here.