International experts discussed scientific and clinical development of the innovative radiation therapy
The largest congress worldwide on the topic of particle or ion therapy - radiation with heavy ions and protons - has taken place in the fall of 2009 in Heidelberg. Well over 600 international participants, especially from Japan and the USA, convened in the Heidelberg Town Hall for the annual meeting of the "Particle Therapy Cooperative Group" (PTCOG), including leading experts from the fields of radiation therapy, medical physics and oncology.
"There have been significant advances in the technology and clinical application of ion radiation in recent years," explained Professor Dr. Dr. J-rgen Debus, Congress Chairman and Medical Director of the Department of Radiooncology and Radiation Therapy at the Heidelberg University Hospital. "The international meeting gives us the opportunity to discuss experiences and results with colleagues and representatives of the industry and to exchange notes."
So far, 70,000 patients worldwide have been treated with ions
At this year's PTCOG, innovations in the field of ion therapy and its integration into already established multi-modal clinical concepts were discussed in the historic atmosphere of the Heidelberg Town Hall. The first combined facility in the world for protons and heavy ions, the Heidelberg Ion Radiation Therapy Center (HIT), which will be opened on the 2nd of November 2009 and is directly affiliated with the Heidelberg University Hospital for Radiooncology and Radiation Therapy, has the first heavy ion gantry in the world, weighing 650 tons. This represents a unique scientific basis for the meeting.
PTCOG is a consortium of preclinical centers active in foundational research and clinical work in the field of particle therapy. In the course of clinical implementation, radiation therapists have also joined. Essential preliminary work for therapeutic application has been completed, especially in Berkeley, California, and at the GSI Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research in Darmstadt, Germany. So far, more than 70,000 patients all over the world have been treated with ion radiation, most of them with protons and heavy ions.
Ion radiation has a high biological effectiveness
Heavy ions (carbon ions) differ from conventional photon radiation therapy and proton therapy by an increased relative biological effectiveness (RBE), which has shown critical therapeutic advantages, especially for slow-growing and radiation-resistant tumors.
Since 1997 far more than 400 patients have been treated by the Heidelberg radiooncologists with carbon ions in cooperation with the GSI Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research in Darmstadt and the Department of Medical Physics at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg, as well as the Rossendorf Research Center in Dresden. Therapeutic results have been significantly improved, especially for tumors at the base of the skull.
Heidelberg Ion Radiation Therapy Center (HIT) will open in the fall
Based on this preliminary work, the Heidelberg Ion Radiation Therapy Center (HIT) has been set up at the Heidelberg University Hospital and will soon begin clinical operation. There, it will be possible to treat more than 1,300 patients per year with ion radiation, especially those with tumors of the base of the skull such as chordomas, chondrosarcomas and meningiomas as well as tumors of the salivary glands and prostate carcinomas. Brain tumors such as glioblastomas and low-grade astrocytomas will also be treated in the context of clinical studies at the HIT.