Liverpool innovation to transform cancer therapy

A University of Liverpool project that could see a big increase in cancer patients worldwide benefiting from proton beam therapy has secured £300,000 in funding. Tony McDonough reports

JetDose is a University of Liverpool project related to proton beam therapy


An University of Liverpool project that will see an increase in the number of cancer patients treated with proton beam therapy has secured £300,000 of new funding.

In the past five years there has been a 70% increase in the number of patients worldwide treated for cancer with proton beam therapy. It is better for patients than radiotherapy as it accurately targets the tumour while minimising damage to healthy tissue.

There are currently five facilities in the UK offering this cancer treatment. However, the time taken for daily quality assurance procedures reduces the number of patients that can be treated at any given time.

JetDose is a novel real-time beam monitor and dosimetry system being developed by the University of Liverpool’s QUASAR Group in collaboration with beam instrumentation innovator D-Beam.

It offers the potential to improve treatment outcomes and increase patient throughput at cancer treatment centres. Professor Carsten P Welsch, head of the Department of Physics at the university and project leader of JetDose says it will address a global unmet need.

He explained: “A complete knowledge of the beam properties is essential to ensure effective cancer treatment, so calibration is done at intervals. Currently there is no way to do this without interfering with the beam.

“JetDose provides non-invasive assessment that will run in parallel with the treatment, continuously monitoring the beam in real-time to ensure the highest levels of accuracy and safety.”

Professor Carsten P Welsch
Professor Carsten P Welsch, head of the Department of Physics at the University of Liverpool


Now JetDose has secured £300,000 of funding from the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) to develop the technology further. Existing techniques for calibrating the dose are time-consuming, interfere with the beam and require regular maintenance. JetDose will address these issues.

Proof of concept has already been achieved with a prototype monitor developed by the QUASAR Group for fundamental research with experts from CERN in Switzerland and GSI in Germany.

They have successfully demonstrated that by passing a proton beam through a curtain of gas and imaging the fluorescence, it is possible to determine the beam current and profile in real time, accurately monitoring the detailed characteristics of the beam. 

This principle will now be adapted and optimized for the specific requirements found at a therapy centre. JetDose will allow the clinician to see a detailed 2D dose map, ensuring that the beam is provided in exactly the way it was planned. 

Also, the technology paves the way for novel high-speed, high dose treatments such as FLASH radiotherapy. This delivers the entire dose in fractions of a second instead of minutes, at rates that are thousands of times higher than current treatments.

Prof Welsch added: “JetDose will produce a novel monitoring system which addresses the growing need for in-vivo dosimetry in medical facilities across the world.”

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