Helium ions may provide superior, better-targeted treatment in pediatric radiotherapy

April 05, 2014

Vienna, Austria: For the first time, researchers have been able to demonstrate that the use of helium ions in radiation therapy could provide accurate treatment to tumours while helping to spare healthy organs. A treatment planning study to be presented at the ESTRO 33 congress today [Sunday] has been able to show that helium may have effects that are superior to radiotherapy using protons, themselves a considerable advance on conventional photon beam radiotherapy.

Mr Hermann Fuchs, a PhD student at the Medical University of Vienna/AKH Vienna, Austria, working with Dr Barbara Knäusl and Professor Dietmar Georg, set out to devise a method of calculating the optimal dose of helium ions for use in radiation treatment. The dose calculation algorithm was then used for treatment plan calculation for ten paediatric patients, five with neuroblastoma (tumours arising in cells of the hormonal and nervous system), and five with Hodgkin's lymphoma (a cancer of the white blood cells).

"Particle beam therapy involving protons or carbon ions has advantages over conventional radiotherapy. Helium ions may represent another kind of particle that can improve radiotherapy treatment. Due to their increased mass, spreading of the beam is reduced by a factor of two as compared with protons. Moreover helium ions have an increased biological effectiveness at the end of their range," Mr Fuchs explains.

Heavier ions like carbon have the potential to kill cancer cells more effectively due to their underlying biology. But by modelling these biological processes, large uncertainties are introduced, and these can be reduced by using lighter ions like helium. "Helium ions reside in the low Linear Energy Transfer (LET) area," says Mr Fuchs. "LET is a physical quantity describing how much energy of a particle is deposited at a given range, and this measure is important when looking at the biological effects of therapy."

This greater accuracy and sparing of normal tissue is very important in the case of children, the researchers say. When treating them it is particularly important to ensure that as little dose of radiation as possible is deposited outside the area to be treated, since an increased area treated with a low dose can lead to the development of secondary cancers. Given that children have a potentially long lifespan ahead of them, this probability needs to be reduced as much as possible through the use of therapies that are targeted as accurately as possible to the tumour, while sparing the dose to surrounding areas, and especially to healthy organs particularly sensitive to radiation located nearby (the organs at risk).

"After three years of extensive research and validation efforts, we were able to produce a treatment planning algorithm that enabled us to investigate the possibilities for using helium ion therapy in children treated with low dose radiation. We would now like to investigate its potential in patients being treated with higher doses, for example, those with brain tumours. The good results that have been achieved so far warrant the verification of the model in order to investigate the real clinical potential of helium ions," Mr Fuchs will say. "In the long term, clinical trials of this therapy will be needed to substantiate the effects of our treatment planning model.

"Particle beam therapy has already advanced care and treatment options for cancer patients. We hope that the use of helium ions may help to bring about further improvements," he will conclude.

President of ESTRO, Professor Vincenzo Valentini, a radiation oncologist at the Policlinico Universitario A. Gemelli, Rome, Italy, commented: "This is an exciting study that holds out hope for improved, more accurate radiation treatment for young cancer patients."
-end-
Abstract no: OC-0393, "Advancement in plan optimisation and evaluation" 16:45 hrs (CEST) Sunday 6 April, room Stolz 1-2.

European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology (ESTRO)

Related Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

New blood cancer treatment works by selectively interfering with cancer cell signalling
University of Alberta scientists have identified the mechanism of action behind a new type of precision cancer drug for blood cancers that is set for human trials, according to research published in Nature Communications.

UCI researchers uncover cancer cell vulnerabilities; may lead to better cancer therapies
A new University of California, Irvine-led study reveals a protein responsible for genetic changes resulting in a variety of cancers, may also be the key to more effective, targeted cancer therapy.

Breast cancer treatment costs highest among young women with metastic cancer
In a fight for their lives, young women, age 18-44, spend double the amount of older women to survive metastatic breast cancer, according to a large statewide study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.

More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.

New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.

American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.

Read More: Cancer News and Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.