The impact of radiotherapy
Radiotherapy is an important modality in the treatment of tumors: about half of the cured cancer patients has benefited from radiotherapy. In most cases when irradiating the tumor it is, however, unavoidable to also irradiate some of the surrounding healthy tissues and organs. Irradiation of these healthy tissues may cause long-term side effects with a significant impact on the quality of life of a patient. The severity of these side effects depends on the function of the irradiated organs, on their radiation sensitivity and on the radiation dose they receive. In specific cases, these side effects may be the limiting factor in the radiation dose that can be delivered to tumor. They thereby may compromise the chance of curing the patient.
Radiotherapy using heavy charged particles
Advanced techniques in photon radiotherapy aim at minimizing the dose delivered to these healthy tissues. One possible route towards an even further reduction in this dose, and thus in the probability of side effects, is the use of heavy charged particles (protons and other ions) instead of photons. Typically, the superior dose deposition properties of a beam of heavy charged particles (ions) results in a substantially lower radiation dose in the healthy tissues. These properties are; a well defined, finite penetration depth in matter, and deposition of the highest dose near near this penetration depth.
Our physics research
The UMCG department of radiation oncology is the first of three proton therapy facilities in the Netherlands. Together with the KVI-Center for Advanced Radiation Technology (KVI-CART) and several international parties, we perform research aimed at further improving the quality and efficacy of proton therapy treatments. Our proton therapy related physics research focuses on the following main topics: