New “one second” method of radiation therapy for cancer patients
A shorter and less expensive way to treat cancer patients with radiation opens the pioneering research of scientists in the US, headed by oncologist of Greek origin. In the future, cancer patients will probably be able to receive all their radiation therapy, which now lasts several weeks, in a single dose of only a few milliseconds.
The new express-radiation FLASH has begun to develop at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School’s Abramson Cancer Center, and the researchers, led by oncologist Costas Koumenis, have conducted animal experiments on related animals. International Journal of Research Oncology, Biology & Physics.
Dr. Koumenis is a graduate of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (1989), with a doctorate from the University of Houston in Texas (1994), while Ioannis Verginadis and Anastasia Velalopoulou participate in the research team. Scientists have used proton radiation to create an accelerator at a dose of 100 to 200 milliseconds that -theoretically at least- is enough to give a cancer patient all the necessary radiation. Early trials of the FLASH technique show that it has the same effect on tumors as traditional photon therapy, without actually damaging healthy tissues because of its very short duration.
Other scientific groups have created similar doses of express, but using low-energy electrons, which do not penetrate deep enough into the body (only five to six inches) to have the same therapeutic utility for internal tumors. The new technique (Proton FLASH Radiation Therapy System), tested at the Roberts University Proton Therapy Center, shows that, with appropriate technical modifications, current proton accelerators can achieve doses of clinical utility.
The researchers are already preparing for their first human clinical trial. So far, the FLASH technique has shown its efficacy only in small animals and small tissue areas. The method needs to be refined to prove to have a similar effect on a larger area of the body and on larger bodies such as the human. In addition, the dose will be sought to last less than 100 milliseconds.
It is noteworthy that scientists have not yet understood exactly how express-radiation proton-bombardment works and, most importantly, how it manages to do no damage to adjacent healthy tissues. It is not clear why cancer cells respond differently to healthy ones, resulting in the former being destroyed but the latter intact.
Scientists estimate that proton-expressing radiation or high-energy electrons will be clinically available in five to ten years, even for tumors that are currently difficult to treat with radiation. But maybe after two to three years it can only be used for superficial tumors and for those revealed after surgery.