For decades radiation therapy has been used to treat cancer and is still the best option we have at defeating the disease. The downside to radiation therapy is that it often takes weeks or even months for treatment session cycles and comes with collateral damage by also destroying healthy cells in the body.
However, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have discovered a way to deliver treatment in under one second. FLASH radiotherapy is an emerging form of therapy that involves giving a patient a one-second dosage of concentrated radiation that they would usually receive over a week. Experiments have proven that the result of the cancerous cells is comparable to the standard treatment duration; however, the exception being that damage to healthy tissue is significantly reduced.
Pennsylvania University researchers found that adjusting the fundamental particle used could make FLASH radiotherapy more effective. Typically, electrons are used in therapy, but they don’t penetrate very deep into the body, meaning they’re really only useful for shallower cancer types such a skin cancer.
The FLASH therapy model uses protons and showed that linear accelerators could be modified to produce and deliver these particles. Since protons penetrate deeper into body tissue, they can be much more effective in treating more significant tumor types.
“The is the first time anyone has published findings that demonstrate the feasibility of using protons, rather than electrons, to generate FLASH doses, with an accelerator currently used for clinical treatments,” says James M. Metz, co-senior author of the study.
Read more on how FLASH treatment is making breakthroughs in treating cancer here.
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