The European Union-funded research project ENTERVISION is developing a new way of harnessing radiotherapy, using 3D digital imagery, to provide earlier tumour detection and more effective treatments.
The project team has created a prototype camera that ensures real-time positioning of the radiation beam onto the exact location of the tumour. “This is only one of the tools that we are developing for greater precision,” says Manjit Dosanjh, ENTERVISION’s project coordinator and Life Sciences Advisor at CERN in Meyrin, Switzerland.
“Organs move when the patient breathes. We have to adjust the beam so that we target the tumour. We are coming up with strategies to provide real-time positioning, and more effective tumour treatments,” she explains.
“This research matters for three reasons,” affirms Dosanjh. “First, it deals with a key health issue, and we have to come up with innovative ways to handle it better. Second, it contributes to Europe’s ambition of promoting innovation and entrepreneurship. And third, it helps train a future generation of scientists.”
ENTERVISION project is part of the EU’s Marie Curie Initial Training Network programme for research fellows. It not only trains, but also gives the researchers the chance to go to international conferences and meet top global experts in the field. With a general shortage of key people in radiotherapy, the researchers can expect to be in demand by the time they complete their fellowships.
“Thanks to the Marie Curie programme, the research fellows are in a good position to move on to successful careers at the end of their fellowship, whether they want to go into basic research, a hospital setting or into the commercial field. The programme encourages them to work together and share ideas,” says Dosanjh.
Radiotherapy, using X-rays, is a potent and cost-effective treatment for cancer. Together with surgery, it is used for more than 50% of all cancer patients. When protons and ions are used instead of X-rays, it is called hadron (or particle) therapy and can target the tumour more effectively while sparing surrounding healthy tissues. However, hadron therapy is still in its infancy on a clinical level: currently lacking the tailored medical imaging tools needed for detection, screening and quality assurance.
The ENTERVISION researchers expect the project results to be used by medical teams in monitoring, in a precise way, based on key tumour and surrounding tissue parameters of volume, position, topology, density, and to adapt the treatment parameters – such as adjusting the beams.