Radiotherapy is a fundamental weapon in the battle against cancer with some 40% of patients receiving it as part of their treatment. Proton therapy (PT) enables a lower integrated radiation dose to a patient receiving radiotherapy (compared to x-rays) due to the finite range of protons and so allows more accurate targeting of the dose. The underlying physics that permits this is the proton's Bragg peak, which increases the dose deposited at a tumour site, even if deep inside the body, as well as reducing the dose to neighbouring healthy tissue. However, PT is more sensitive to uncertainties in both treatment planning and delivery than conventional x-ray treatment .
To overcome these limitations of these uncertainities in planning and delivering PT, the Wellcome Trust is funding the PRaVDA Consortium to develop new concepts and instrumentation to provide accurate information about the proton beam’s dose, energy and profile before and during treatment.
PRaVDA is a team of leading instrumentation engineers and scientists, medical, high-energy and nuclear physicists and oncologists from the Universities of Birmingham, Lincoln, Liverpool and Surrey, the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, the iThemba Laboratories (Cape Town, South Africa).
A few facts and figures.
- Each year over 320 thousand people are diagnosed with cancer in the UK
- More than 1 in 3 people in the UK will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime.
- The main cancer treatments are surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy; with 40% of patients receive radiotherapy as part of their treatment.
- Around 120,000 cancer patients in the UK, and millions worldwide, benefit from radiotherapy every year.
- Radiotherapy helps cure more people than cancer drugs and is generally the lowest cost treatment option.
- Wordwide there are over 40 operational proton therapy centres with many more planned.
- UK Department of Health confirmed in December 2011 that proton therapy will be made available for patients in the UK through two new treatment centres, in London and Manchester. Patients will be able to have treatment here from 2017.
PRaVDA will be the world’s first silicon-based detector system that will allow the in-situ monitoring of the incident dose, in terms of its fluence, energy and distribution both prior and during treatment; and provide quality images during treatment as well as realise interactive proton computerised tomography (CT) – the ultimate aspiration for radiotherapy.
This three-year adventurous project brings together the UK’s leading detector and instrumentation scientists together with medical physicists and oncologists in close partnership with industry and other stakeholders. PRaVDA has use of the UK’s only research proton facility for extensive testing, and guaranteed access to other cyclotrons at key PT treatment centres; together with unique skills in designing novel detectors that lie at the heart of PRaVDA.