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Cancer Therapy by Carbon Ions


Experimental Investigation of the Efficiency of Cancer Therapy by Carbon Ions at the TWAC-ITEP Facility

Tech Area / Field

  • PHY-PFA/Particles, Fields and Accelerator Physics/Physics
  • MED-RAD/Radiomedicine/Medicine
  • BIO-RAD/Radiobiology/Biotechnology

8 Project completed

Registration date

Completion date

Senior Project Manager
Bunyatov K S

Leading Institute
ITEF (ITEP), Russia, Moscow

Supporting institutes

  • Cancer Research Center, Russia, Moscow\nA.I. Burnazyan Federal Medical and Biophysical Center, Russia, Moscow


  • GSI, Germany, Darmstadt

Project summary

The world clinical practice shows that radiation therapy is the primary method of therapy for cancer. Up to 70% of cancer patients need one or another kind of radiation therapy, with advisable treatment in proton or heavy ion beams for approximately 20% of patients.

The primary disadvantage of conventional radiotherapy is that concurrently with the irradiation of a tumor the healthy surface tissues are exposed to essential irradiation as well, especially in case of complicated or multiple form of tumor. As a rule, conventional methods of radiation therapy provide insufficient selectivity of radiation effect on malignant tumors.

The steady growth of cancer incidence apparent in last decades (0.5-1% a year) forces scientists to intensify their research, both on optimization of photon therapy methods, and on creation of therapeutic technologies notable for the selective damage of cancerous tissues and sparing effect of radiation on normal tissues of the organism. The most promising kinds of radiation therapy that meet such requirements are neutron capture therapy and therapy by densely ionizing radiation – hydrogen and carbon ions accelerated in accelerators up to a required energy. Beams of fast ions combine an excellent physical profile of volumetric energy release in a target, depth-dose curves (Bragg curves) with an increased relative biological efficiency (RBE) (fig. 1).

The ITEP has a facility that provides clinical procedures with use of protons, i.e. hydrogen ions. This facility is the basis of the Medical center of proton therapy, where cancer patients undergo radiotherapeutic treatment.

Currently, the ITEP-Moscow is implementing a heavy ion accelerating and accumulating complex ITEP-TWAC consisting of a heavy ion injector, heavy ion synchrotron U-10, booster UK, and a laser source of highly charged helium-like ions. The ITEP-TWAC was designed for research on relativistic nuclear physics, physics of high energy density matter, and radiobiological studies.

Arrangement of studies for the investigation of radiobiological effect of carbon ions on living tissues is an important direction in the experimental program of the facility. In 2003, the accumulating complex with carbon ions was put in operation. Currently, the facility allows obtaining carbon ion beams with energy up to 400 MeV/a.m.u. The use of the ion beam forming system based on magnetic quadrupole lenses provides adjustability of the ion beam diameter from 1.5 mm up to 150 mm in the area of interaction with targets of interest. A beam monitoring system with current transformers, semiconductor detectors, and optical transducers allows to measure parameters of the ion beam with required accuracy.

Thus, the facility ITEP-TWAC provides necessary parameters of the carbon ion beam for the implementation of radiobiological preclinical studies, aimed at determining optimal operational modes of the facility for the treatment of malignant tumors.

Main goals of the proposed project:

  • Determination of operating modes of the facility, providing the absorbed dose of 5 – 10 Gy during the irradiation of material in a tissue-equivalent phantom at an energy of the initial beam of 250 MeV/a.m.u.;
  • Experimental estimation of the efficiency of the operating modes of the facility during radiobiological studies in tumor homogenates and cells, and in animals with inoculated tumors.

Implementation of these goals will open ways to clinical studies on carbon ion beams of the facility ITEP-TWAC.


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