Friday, July 3, 2009

Medicine: cancer therapy

The technologies of particle physics have yielded dramatic advances in cancer treatment. Today, every major medical center in the nation uses accelerators producing x-rays, protons, neutrons or heavy ions for the diagnosis and treatment of disease. Particle accelerators play an integral role in the advancement of cancer therapy. Medical linacs for cancer therapy were pioneered simultaneously at Stanford and in the UK in the 1950s using techniques that had been developed for high energy physics research. This R&D spawned a new industry and has saved millions of lives.
Today it is estimated that there are over 7,000 operating medical linacs around the world that have treated over 30,000,000 patients. Fermilab physicists and engineers built the nation's first proton accelerator for cancer therapy and shipped it to the Loma Linda University Medical Center, where it has treated some 7,000 patients. Relative to x-rays, proton therapy offers important therapeutic benefits, especially for pediatric patients. The Neutron Therapy Facility at Fermilab has the highest energy and the deepest penetration of any fast neutron beam in the United States. Neutrons are effective against large tumors. More than 3,500 patients have received treatment at the Neutron Therapy Facility.

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