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Neutron Capture Therapy at the MEPhI


Implementation of an Irradiation Base for Clinical Studies on Neutron Capture Therapy at the IRT MEPhI Nuclear Reactor with use of an Epithermal and Thermal Neutron Beam

Tech Area / Field

  • FIR-EXP/Experiments/Fission Reactors
  • MED-RAD/Radiomedicine/Medicine
  • BIO-RAD/Radiobiology/Biotechnology
  • FIR-OTH/Other/Fission Reactors

8 Project completed

Registration date

Completion date

Senior Project Manager
Tocheny L V

Leading Institute
MIFI, Russia, Moscow

Supporting institutes

  • A.I. Burnazyan Federal Medical and Biophysical Center, Russia, Moscow\nCancer Research Center, Russia, Moscow


  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) / Nuclear Engineering Department, USA, MA, Cambridge\nNational Research Council Canada / Canadian Neutron Beam Centre, Canada, ON, Chalk River

Project summary

The primary disadvantage of the existing radiation therapy is that the irradiation of a tumor essentially damages healthy tissues exposed to the radiation, especially when the tumor has a complicated or multiple form. As a rule, the existing radiation therapy methods have no sufficient selective damage on malignant neoplasm.

Currently, a new technology of radiation therapy is developing worldwide – neutron capture therapy (NCT). This technology was designed to selectively target the radiation to tumor. The selectivity is achieved due to a compound administered in tumor; the compound contains certain nuclides (10B, 157Gd) that have a large thermal neutron capture cross-section in comparison with other elements of biological tissue. When the tumor is irradiated with thermal neutrons, they are captured, which results in prompt secondary radiation damaging tumor cells.

The first experimental facility in Russia for NCT research was built at the IRT MEPhI Reactor under ISTC Project 1951 “Preclinical neutron capture therapy studies at the IRT MEPhI nuclear reactor”.

The main trend of NCT development in the world is the use of epithermal neutron beams to treat deep-seated tumors, primarily severe brain tumors. Therefore, the proposal of this project is to implement a clinical NCT base at the IRT MEPhI Reactor with use of epithermal and thermal neutrons. Unfortunately, due to the design features of the tangential channel HEC-4 passing through the water pool of the reactor, it is impossible to implement an epithermal neutron beam with a flux suitable for NCT. Therefore, for these purposes we suppose to redesign the thermal column (channel HEC-1). By preliminary estimations, the redesign will require dismantling the bulk of the graphite in the thermal column and replacing it with an aluminum block; also, the old shutter is supposed to be dismantled and replaced with a new rotary structure and a specially designed collimating device. Preliminary computations have shown the feasibility of a beam of epithermal (flux φeth > 109 n/cm2/s) and thermal neutrons (flux φth > 109 n/cm2/s) with a concomitant total dose in the beam not more than 10-12 Gy·cm2 per unit fluence of epithermal or thermal neutrons. This redesign of the channel HEC-1 will result in a neutron beam applicable in NCT to treat both surface and deep-seated tumors. The ratio of thermal and epithermal neutrons in the beam is variable with the help of 6Li-containing filters.

During the period of redesign of the thermal column (channel HEC-1), channel HEC-4 (experimental base with a thermal neutron beam previously implemented under ISTC project 1951) is supposed to host studies on new boron-containing drugs and their combinations in small and large animals, in order to determine their efficiency and their possible synergism, and also to develop combined NCT-based technologies and methods of treatment for tumors. The research on determination of the efficiency of NCT of spontaneous osteosarcoma in dogs will continue.

The primary goals of the project:

  • implementation of an irradiation base at the IRT MEPhI Reactor for clinical NCT trials with use of both epithermal and thermal neutrons;
  • studies on new compounds, and development of a combined technology to treat malignant tumors basing on NCT;

Achievement of these goals will allow creating the first clinical NCT base in Russia, and will open prospects to the stable development.


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