3D technology to improve cancer treatment

August 07, 2012 // By Anne-Françoise PELE
Researchers at the University of Lincoln in the UK are to develop 3D imaging technology for cancer patients receiving proton therapy.

The research project, dubbed Pravda, aims to provide accurate measurements of the therapy dose and 3D imaging sensors of where the radiation is absorbed at a tumor site. Treatments are expected to be more effective and shorter, and it may be possible to treat some common cancers that so far have resisted treatment with conventional therapy.

In this context, the University of Lincoln said it has received a £1.6 million ($2.5 million) from the Wellcome Trust to develop proton detectors that provide precise data about the proton beam's dose, energy and profile during treatment. The detectors are also meant to record individual proton tracks to allow 3D images of the proton interactions with the tumor.

Project leader Nigel Allinson, Distinguished Professor of Image Engineering at the University of Lincoln, explained: "Proton therapy is widely used in the USA and with two new government supported centers becoming available in the UK, our work is not only timely but, hopefully, will have a major effect on the quality of life for many thousands of cancer patients. Being able to image exactly how the radiation interacts with a tumor, in 3D, is considered the holy-grail of radiotherapy."

To achieve this goal, Prof. Allinson said he partnered with instrumentation scientists, medical physicists and oncologists from the Universities of Birmingham, Liverpool and Surrey, the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, and the iThemba Laboratories (Cape Town, South Africa).

Ultimately, the Pravda project will utilize the imaging sensors developed at the University of Lincoln and the detectors designed at the University of Liverpool and used in the Large Hadron Collider for the detection of the Higgs Boson.