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High Performance Laser For Cancer-Cell Irradiation

High Performance Laser For Targeted Irradiation Of Cancer

Clinical appliance still dreams of the future

By Marietta Gross – Scoop Media, Austria

Jena, Germany -- A new way to fight cancer: For the first time worldwide an international team of physicists has succeeded to create a directed ray of protons using a high performance laser. The protons have the same speed and can be used for a targeted irradiation of cancer. This principle has never before been demonstrated with a laser, explained team leader Roland Sauerbrey from the University of Jena. He expects eight to ten years to pass by until this experiment can be clinically applied.

By means of proton rays cancer in sensitive regions of the body (for example brain tumors) can be treated more directly and with fewer side effects in contrast to conventional X-ray-radiation. According to the scientists in Jena the charged particles are accelerated to an extremely high speed: up to 50 per cent of the speed of light. When the ray impinges the tumor it is heavily decelerated so that the protons release their energy directly into the tumor and destroy it.

So far the proton therapy is only seldomly applied due to the necessary complex acceleration equipment. In Munich Europe’s first clinical proton therapy centre is currently under construction. Further centres could follow, that also use high performance lasers.

The experiment of Jena managed to create a directed proton ray of 1.3 MegaVolts. Therefore a titanium foil of only five millionth of a metre was cannonaded with a pressure of ten billion Bar, whereas the laser produced plasma and protons. The titanium foil was also coated with a certain synthetic. This plastic coated foil makes the target area visible and is lighted by another smaller laser.

Still, there will be a long way to go until the research results can be used in medicine, because for eye tumors an energy of 70 MegaVolt is necessary – to treat brain tumors an energy of 250 MegaVolt is required, said Sauerbrey. To enhance the amount of energy the University of Jena will soon introduce a Petawatt-Laser.

"This device would allow performances as strong as if the light of the sun that hits the earth focussing onto a hair," thinks Sauerbrey. According to the scientist the proton therapy with laser will revolutionise cancer treatment because one or two shots would be enough for a patient’s treatment, he says.

The results of this experiment were published in the magazine "Nature".


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