Clinical scientists work on new radiotherapy device
Press release issued: 10 January 2011
Clinical scientists have been given funding to develop a novel device that could reduce the risks of mistreatments for cancer patients during radiotherapy.
While advances in radiation therapy have meant more accurate targeting of tumours, errors in treatment can still occur because of the complex technology that is used.
Radiation therapy is often carried out using a machine with finely engineered components which shape the radiation field directed at the tumour. The components are in motion throughout the treatment in order to vary the radiation intensity and sculpt the radiation dose precisely to the tumour shape. This means that tumours can be more accurately targeted, greatly reducing the damage from radiation to surrounding tissue and sensitive organs.
However, one consequence of this is that changes to the radiation beam cannot be easily detected, so that if a fault occurs, it may not be immediately spotted. This has resulted in a significant number of mistreatments in recent years, particularly in the United States, where adoption of this new technology has been more widespread.
Dr Jaap Velthuis from the University of Bristol’s School of Physics, and one of the scientists involved in the project, said: “We are working on a detector based on very thin silicon camera systems which will not interfere with the radiation beam, and will provide the radiographer with an instantaneous real time image of the beam as it is delivered.
“This system will immediately detect inaccurate treatments, allowing any errors to be corrected before the patient suffers any adverse consequences. Costs of treatment will also be reduced as fewer mistreatments means more efficient patient care.”
The funding is awarded to produce a fully functional prototype and will run for 17 months. The final device could be operational in hospitals around the globe within three years after completion of the prototype.