The Benefits of Particle Therapy in Cancer Treatment – Prof. Stephanie E. Combs

Norway is establishing particle therapy centres for cancer treatment in Oslo and Bergen. Particle therapy, in combination with molecular and digital biomarkers is revolutionizing cancer treatment. A world leading expert will present recent research and technology developements.

Professor Stephanie Combs gave a lecture on The Benefits of Particle Therapy: Individualized concepts based on biology, physics and prospective clinical trials on February 20th, 2019 in Auditorium 1, Realfagbygget. For more information about Stephanie Combs please see:

The lecture was organized by Academia Europaea Bergen Knowledge Hub and The Horizons Lecture Series.

The video of the lecture is available here:

Bilde av en partikkelstrålegererator

External beam radiation therapy as the most conventional form of radiotherapy where the radiation is delivered to a particular part of the body from the outside, is a crucial component of modern oncology. Depending on the type of tumor, radiation therapy (RT) is either an essential complementary and supportive treatment before or after surgery or a clear treatment alternative to surgery. Early treatments were performed with photon radiotherapy. The photons cause damage to the cancer cell’s DNA, so the cancerous cells reproduce more slowly or die. Initially X-ray or clinical localization was used to confine the space for irradiation before a more precise photon RT with 3D-conformal planning became possible after the introduction of computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

The next step was the development of stereotactic RT, where the benefits of detailed imaging scans and patient immobilization developed by neurosurgery allowed a very precise targeted irradiation, mostly for tumors in the brain or spine. Further technological advances for planning radiation therapy, including intensity modulated RT have made RT even more precise. This method spares normal brain tissue and hence lowers the risk for side effects, especially for lesions that have complex shapes or are close to neighboring healthy organs.

Today, particle therapy with protons or heavier ions opens new horizons in radiation oncology. In comparison to photon RT, particle beams have specific physical and biological properties. Studies have shown that precision can be increased and the biological effect on the cancerous cells is two to three times higher. This leads to fewer side effects and enhances local control of tumors and thus survival. Clinical trials are currently underway to characterize the potential of particle beams. In Europe, the number of particle therapy centers is continuously increasing which stresses the importance of this technique for patient care and research.

These developments, in combination with molecular and digital biomarkers, have the potential to revolutionize radiation oncology and pave the way to personalized medicine.