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Cancer takes the lives of millions of people around the world each year. Eager to combat the side effects of cancer radiation therapy, researchers are on track to complete a project that could not only cut the length of a radiation session but reduce the side effects as well.
Cancerous Radiation Therapy
Cancer is one of the leading causes of death across the globe. Just in 2012 alone, there were 14.1 million new cases and 8.2 million cancer-related deaths. Even more so, the number of cancer-related cases per year is expected to almost double by 2030, rising to approximately 23.6 million.
Though scientists and medical researchers are hard at work looking for ways to combat cancer, there is a lot of new attention being put towards the treatment of cancer in patients. Currently, the most common treatment for cancerous cells revolves around radiation therapy, a treatment that is effective but puts a tremendous strain on patients’ bodies.
SLAC and Stanford researchers may have found a way to alleviate this process.
Developed by the United States’ Department of Energy and Stanford University, new accelerator technology offers a new hope in radiation therapy. Named PHASER, The new treatment could potentially reduce radiation treatments to under seconds compared to minutes in traditional methods.
When a cancer patient goes through radiation treatment, the healthy tissue and organs are dramatically affected. However, this new SLAC/Stanford treatment promises to blast cancer cells so quickly that organs and other tissues don't have time to move during exposure, drastically reducing the strain on the body.
As stated by Billy Loo, Associate Professor of radiation oncology at the Stanford School of Medicine, “Delivering the radiation dose of an entire therapy session with a single flash lasting less than a second would be the ultimate way of managing the constant motion of organs and tissues, and a major advance compared with methods we’re using today.”
On to the Future
Even more interesting, is that when this new cancer-fighting treatment was tested, on mice it proved to have additional benefits. Loo expressed his excitement stating, “We’ve seen in mice that healthy cells suffer less damage when we apply the radiation dose very quickly, and yet the tumor-killing effect is equal to or even a little bit better than that of a conventional longer exposure.”
“If the result holds for humans, it would be a whole new paradigm for the field of radiation therapy,” says Loo.
However it is good to address that for this new method to work, the SLAC/Stanford team needs to construct new accelerator technology that are hundreds of times more powerful than today’s technology; a hurdle for researchers trying to make a treatment like this more accessible to the general public.
Nevertheless, the researchers of this project are committed to making radiation therapy more accessible to patients worldwide.