Visualizing nuclear reactions inside the body caused by proton beam with light

Researchers find a novel method toward high-precision proton therapy

Researchers established a breakthrough method which visualizes microscopic physical phenomena occurring inside the body’s nuclear by proton therapy.

Having the advantage of concentrating the dose to a tumor while minimizing the damage to normal tissues, proton therapy is a type radiation therapy to treat cancer. Monitoring accurate dose distribution in proton therapy is desirable to avoid fatal damages coming from inappropriate irradiation performed or insufficient dose delivered. Positron emission tomography (PET) is used for confirmation, but the obtained distribution of positron emitters produced by the protons does not trace the dose distribution due to differences in physical processes. To estimate the accurate dose from the PET image, sufficient cross sections of nuclear reactions that produce positron emitters become important.

In this study, the research team measured nuclear reaction cross sections toward high-precision proton therapy by using Cherenkov radiation after proton irradiation. They used visualized weak Cherenkov radiation from the irradiated target, and implemented the new cross sectional data into a conventional Monte Carlo (MC) simulation for direct comparison with the PET instrument. Their MC results showed good agreement with the experimental data both in terms of spatial distributions and temporal evolutions.

This is the first attempt at using Cherenkov radiation this way, and the obtained results suggest that the method is convenient and widely applicable for high precision proton therapy. It is also believed to dramatically improve the standard database for research in fundamental science, including nuclear physics, quantum mechanics, and particle physics.

The study was published online in Scientific Reports on February 7, 2018.

More information about the study

1. Graduate School of Advanced Science and Engineering, Waseda University
2. Department of Medical Physics, Tokyo Women’s Medical University
3. Department of Radiology, Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine
4. Graduate School of Science, Rikkyo University
5. Graduate School of Medicine, Nagoya University
6. National Institute of Radiological Sciences
7. Nagoya Proton Therapy Center

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