Proton Therapy- A Closer Look
Imagine a 6 feet tall and 10 feet wide cancer killing machine that weighs approximately 195 tons!! Now imagine a controlled beam of proton travelling in the vacuum at 100,000 miles per second that can target a patient’s tumour with sub-millimetre precision while causing very little harm to nearby healthy tissues. In the simplest terms, that’s proton therapy!!
Going down memory lane
Doctors have treated & controlled cancer with radiation for more than 100 years- this branch of medicine is commonly known as Radiation Oncology. The foundation of radiation oncology is based on the interaction of energy and matter. The science of radiation physics, originally developed to accelerate particles for physics experiments, has translated into clinical treatment to generate X-rays for zapping tumors. With the invention of particle accelerators for ion beams, linacs (linear) and circular particle accelerators way back in the early 19th century, radiotherapy has come a long way since. Interestingly, even before radiotherapy became popular, a young particle physicist at Harvard University named Robert Wilson laid out an alternative, the use of protons instead of X-rays. In 1946, Wilson published a paper called “Radiological Use of Fast Protons” in which he noted that protons deliver more radiation to the tumor while sparing healthy tissue. The first experimental proton treatments occurred in 1954 at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.