Scientists Develop Advanced Charged Particle Therapy for Cancer Treatment

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Significant progress made on new cancer therapy
Physics of neutron capture enhanced particle therapy. As ions in the beam traverse tissues proximal to the target, some undergo nuclear interactions with target matter, creating a variety of nuclear fragmentation products, including neutrons, which disperse in the body and thermalize. Credit: International Journal of Radiation Oncology*Biology*Physics (2024). DOI: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2024.02.052

Researchers at ANSTO have advanced a new cancer treatment approach called Neutron Capture Enhanced Particle Therapy (NCEPT), with the potential to enhance outcomes for patients with deeply situated, diffuse tumors.

The study findings published in the International Journal of Radiation OncologyBiologyPhysics reveal that adding neutron capture agents to cancer cells during carbon and helium ion beam irradiation led to a three- to five-fold increase in reducing cancer cell survival and postponed growth compared to ion radiation alone.

The collaborative study, led by researchers from ANSTO along with partners from the University of Wollongong, University of Sydney, and the National Institutes for Quantum Sciences and Technology in Japan, underscores that internally generated neutrons could effectively target micro-infiltrates and cancer cells beyond defined treatment areas.

Assoc. Prof. Mitra Safavi-Naeini, the project lead and corresponding author, noted, “Our results indicate the potential of NCEPT to deliver higher doses to tumor tissue within the treatment zone while minimizing radiation exposure to non-target tissues. This could lead to better outcomes for patients with challenging cancers, such as brain tumors, which are resistant to conventional treatments.”

This innovative strategy could revolutionize the treatment of various cancers, enhancing patient outcomes and quality of life globally.

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                                                                                                                                        The <a target="_blank" href="" rel="tag noopener" class="textTag">collaboration</a> between ANSTO and Japan's National Institute for Quantum Science and Technology (QST) plays a vital role in advancing NCEPT. Pooling the expertise and resources of multiple local and international institutions has significantly contributed to this recent breakthrough.

In their experiments with human glioblastoma cells, the researchers utilized two distinct neutron capture agents, [10B]-BPA and [157Gd]-DOTA-TPP. They observed that cells treated with these agents exhibited markedly reduced survival and delayed growth upon exposure to carbon and helium ion beams compared to untreated cells.
The study also suggests the potential for NCEPT to target radiation doses to micro-infiltrates and cells outside defined treatment regions, expanding its applicability to deeply situated and diffuse tumors.

Nicholas Howell, the lead author of the study, described NCEPT as a groundbreaking approach in charged particle therapy. By combining the precision of charged particle therapy with the targeted nature of neutron capture therapy, NCEPT can achieve highly specific energy deposition within cancer cells and tissues.

“This breakthrough could significantly improve outcomes for patients with cancers that are currently hard to treat effectively,” Howell added.

The development of NCEPT marks a significant advancement in meeting the demand for innovative technologies to enhance long-term survival and quality of life for cancer patients.

The team plans to conduct further research to assess NCEPT’s efficacy in vivo and explore its potential for clinical application.

Currently, particle therapy is not widely available in Australia, although the Australian Bragg Center for Proton Therapy and Research in Adelaide is under construction and set to start operations in 2024–25.

Earlier this year, the team published the first experimental demonstration of real-time neutron capture discrimination in helium and carbon ion therapy in a paper in Scientific Reports.

Two patents are associated with this approach.

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                                                                                                <strong>More information:</strong>
                                                Nicholas Howell et al, Neutron Capture Enhances Dose and Reduces Cancer Cell Viability in and out of Beam During Helium and Carbon Ion Therapy, <i>International Journal of Radiation Oncology*Biology*Physics</i> (2024). <a target="_blank" data-doi="1" href="" rel="noopener">DOI: 10.1016/j.ijrobp.2024.02.052</a>The information below is from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO).

Citation: Scientists have made progress on a new charged particle therapy for cancer. (Published on May 10, 2024, retrieved on May 28, 2024 from

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