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Hadron Therapy Fights Cancer
August 26, 2010 21:52

Latest achievements of nuclear physics appear to be useful for fighting tumors and saving lives of living beings. However, surgery and chemotherapy still remain most frequently used techniques for helping patients with oncological diseases.

Russian and European researchers and medics admit that today hadron therapy is the most advanced curing technique for various tumors and cancers. Hadron therapy is based upon using proton beams and carbon ions. This technique allows early diagnostics and treatment of localized, deep-seated and radio resistant (those, which cannot be cured with traditional radiation treatment) cancer tumors.

Hadron therapy has several advantages over traditional treatment techniques. Ions move rapidly, thus easily forming narrow well-directed beams. Carbon ions penetrate tissues almost without being dispersed, and that is why they can easily be focused on a malignant tumor. Ions get inside living tissues as deep as necessary – depending on beam energy. Proton beams damage cancer cells almost without hurting healthy tissues, which surround the tumor. Cancer cell receives multiple breaks of its DNA double helix, after which it has no chances for survival.

Russian physicists worked with a similar system – they also used hybrid gold nanoparticles, covered with a colouring agent. However, they paid attention to spontaneous radiation emission or luminescence, unlike their American colleagues, who studied stimulated emission. Russian physicists develop production techniques for such devices and study their spectral properties.



Traditional radio therapy is based upon a totally different principle. This therapy works because DNA molecules of healthy and tumor cells have different abilities to recover after damage. Radiation causes single defects in DNA helix to appear. Healthy cells quickly recover after the damage, however, cancer cells do not recover. Tumor growth either slows down or stops. Radio therapy has lots of drawbacks. Ideal treatment should destroy cancer cells and do not affect healthy tissues and organs, which is not applicable to radio therapy. Moreover, this kind of therapy is useless when treating so-called “radio resistant” tumors, which are known to be poorly sensitive to radiation.

Apart from selectivity, biological efficiency of hadron therapy is several times higher than that of radio therapy – it reaches 8-90% with one to ten applications, while using radio therapy for recovery may need 30-40 sessions.

Researchers still ague on whether hadron therapy would replace surgery and chemotherapy. Austrian scientists believe that hadron therapy is a part of complex measures of fighting cancer and can be used together with traditional techniques. However, up-to-date technologies, based upon most recent achievements of nuclear physics are expected to be wider used in ordinary life and medicine.

Today hadron therapy rapidly spreads in Europe. CERN (Conseil Europeenne pour la Recherche Nucleaire) coordinates establishment of an international research network of hadron therapy centres. Such centres are already open in Germany, Italy, Austria, and France, as well as in Japan. Similar centres are waiting to be open in Belgium, Sweden and China.

In Russia only 3 science centres perform proton therapy: the Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Physics in Moscow, Joint Institute of Nuclear Research in Dubna, and St. Petersburg Institute of Nuclear Physics. Medics suggest opening the Centre of Hadron Therapy and Cancer Diagnostics in St. Petersburg, and government has approved it. Now it is time for investors to join the party.

Source: Science & Life

Kizilova Anna

Tags: Russian medicine     

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