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Researchers find fast way to deliver radiation therapy to cancer patients

Jan. 9 (UPI) — Cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy typically come in for treatment multiple times over several weeks — making what is already both a physically and mentally taxing process even more challenging.

Researchers at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania may have found a safe and effective way to deliver an entire course of radiation therapy in less than a second. They report the findings in an article published Thursday in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, and Physics.

“This is the first time anyone has published findings that demonstrate the feasibility of using protons — rather than electrons — to generate FLASH doses, with an accelerator currently used for clinical treatments,” study co-senior author James M. Metz, director of the Roberts Proton Therapy Center and chair of Radiation Oncology, said in a statement.

Metz and his colleagues used a proton radiation technology called FLASH radiotherapy to generate the dosage needed to theoretically give cancer patients an entire course of radiotherapy in one rapid treatment.

FLASH is still an experimental approach, but the Penn team was able to demonstrate that it has the same effect on tumors — at least in animal models — as traditional photon radiation while sparing healthy tissue, due to the shorter exposure time.

They noted that they are already beginning to optimize how the approach would be used in future clinical trials in humans and to translate the method from research the clinic, as well as designing a delivery system for FLASH in humans.

“We’ve been able to develop specialized systems in the research room to generate FLASH doses, demonstrate that we can control the proton beam, and perform a large number of experiments to help us understand the implications of FLASH radiation that we simply could not have done with a more traditional research setup,” Metz said.

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