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Helium ion radiotherapy proven to be safer for pediatric cancer treatment

Radiotherapy using helium ions has been proven safer for treating pediatric cancer according to new research presented by Hermann Fuchs, a doctoral student at the Medical University of Vienna in Austria, Dr. Barbara Knäusl, and Professor Dietmar Georg at the April 6, 2014, session of the European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology congress.

Mark Filipak This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license by the copyright holder.
Thematic diagram showing dose as a function of depth for overlay of proton radiotherapy and x-ray radiotherapy to facilitate a comparison of the two radiotherapy methods.

The basic concept is to produce sufficient energy in a radioactive particle that will kill the targeted cancer without producing a high potential for producing other cancers in neighboring tissues that may develop later in life. This basic idea is important for children due to their size and because children have a potentially long life if childhood cancer is cured without the potential for recurrence, metastasis, or growth of secondary lesions resulting from radiotherapy.

The lower energy of the helium ion allows for more directed treatment that is less likely to produce other cancers. The beam of radiation that cancerous tissue is exposed to is reduced in size by 50 percent using helium ions instead of protons derived from carbon. The smaller tool allows for more exact targeting of cancer cells and attacks the cellular functions of cancer cells.

The methodology is presently being tested on ten children with cancers that are common in children including cancers of the hormone system, cancer of the white blood cells, and cancer of the nervous system.