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discovered 02_2012

FOCUS// The HZDR Research Magazine WWW.Hzdr.DE 22 23 studies on small animal models are planned for 2013 and 2014, the goal is to get PENELOPE to a stage where it can deliver the energies necessary for proton beam cancer therapy. According to Schramm, “our Munich laser colleagues are also currently working on a petawatt system. And while we are definitely looking forward to the race, more importantly, we are looking forward to our collaboration in this area. At any rate, Germany has already gained high visibility as far as the development of lasers for use in medicine goes.“ A long way to go A lot more research needs to be done before laser- accelerated proton beams can be used in human cancer therapy. Work, which is reliant upon the close collaboration between radiation oncologists, radiobiologists, medical physicists, dosimetry experts, and laser physicists. Following is an outline of the more essential research questions: // How can the energy from the generated protons be increased to enable them to reach deeper-lying tumors? // How can the intensive short laser pulses be delivered from accelerator to patient? // How can laser-based proton pulses be used to customize the beam to the specific tumor within the patient‘s body? // Moreover, how does one determine the proper beam energy and beam spot size in order to precisely and effectively irradiate the entire tumor volume bit by bit? // How can the proper dose needed for a given patient‘s radiation treatment plan be ensured and how can sensitive normal tissues be best protected? In answer to the second question, one important step has already successfully been taken, thanks to the magnet technology available through the Dresden High Magnetic Field Laboratory at the HZDR. In order to target the radiation for patient delivery, until now, magnetic systems are needed, which are very heavy, take up a lot of space, require an elaborate shield, and on top of that are very expensive. Until now that is – because the Dresden researchers and their colleagues from the GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research in Darmstadt, Germany, and the Helmholtz Institute Jena, Germany, have recently come up with a new solution. Construction of new proton beam therapeutic facility OncoRay, Dresden’s center for Radiation Research in Oncology , which is run jointly by HZDR, the University Hospital Dresden, and the TU Dresden, continues to invest in proton beam therapy development. To this end, construction of a new treatment and research facility with state-of-the-art clinical proton therapy capabilities based on circular accelerator technology is currently under way at the University Hospital campus. Projected initial patient treatments are scheduled for 2014. As part of the ongoing research at the Center, Michael Baumann and his team have set out to investigate which of the 500 different forms of cancer could be effectively treated using the new beam technology. Children and lung cancer patients but also patients suffering from other tumors in the vicinity of sensitive tissues alike could be benefitting from this new form of treatment. At the same time, the new Center is supposed to become a hub for testing and research of the new laser-particle acceleration facilities. Here, laser-accelerated particles can be directly compared to the particles from conventional circular accelerators. Clinical application on patients is not as of yet realistic, although it does represent an important long-term goal of the project. The OncoRay Center thus provides an internationally unparalleled research platform, which will benefit patients early on thanks to the diverse and application-oriented research projects. Collectively, these types of projects – the quick and focused application of basic science research findings to the clinical setting – are known as translational research.