The World Health Organisation estimate there are 14 million new cancer cases each year. In the developed world, it is the second biggest killer – about one in four of all deaths. Half of all cancer patients will receive radiotherapy as part of their curative treatment. All high-energy radiation damages a cell’s DNA. Nearly all current radiotherapy use external beams of x-rays. Protons, positively charged particles, offer a new form of radiotherapy. PRaVDA is a unique instrument that will let clinicians see in 3D how the protons interact with a tumour – this is the Holy Grail of Radiotherapy.
There are around 14 million new cancer cases each year. Half of all cancer patients receive radiotherapy as part of their treatment and all high-energy radiation damages a cell’s DNA. Find out how protons are offering a new, effective form of radiotherapy.
PRaVDA (Proton Radiotherapy Verification and Dosimetry Applications) is one of the most complicated imaging instruments ever made, matching anything currently out in space. PRaVDA will assist in setting treatment, monitoring patients' doses and, most importantly, producing a 3D image of cancer - an image created using the same protons that are used to treat the cancer.
These protons can deliver big doses in small, controllable volumes – deep inside the body. We use the detectors from the heart of the Large Hadron Collider, which provided the evidence for the Higgs Boson, to track the paths of individual protons. We also use the CMOS technology from smartphone cameras to accurately determine the energy lost by the protons in our body, though there is enough silicon in our instrument to make over 18,000 iPhone cameras.
Lead image: The proton therapy treatment room at Proton Therapy Centre, Czech Republic.