Posts Tagged ‘world’

Showcase of latest advances in medical imaging for revolutionary proton therapy cancer treatment

The University of Lincoln’s Professor Nigel Allinson MBE will deliver the keynote talk at the tenth International Conference on Position Sensitive Detectors. The conference, which takes place from 7th to 12th September 2014, features the latest developments in this field from leading researchers around the world.

Professor Allinson leads the pioneering PRaVDA (Proton Radiotherapy Verification and Dosimetry Applications) project. He and his multinational team are developing one of the most complex medical instruments ever imagined to improve the delivery of proton beam therapy in the treatment of cancer.

Proton beam therapy is a type of particle therapy that uses a beam of protons to irradiate diseased tissue. Proton beam therapy has the ability to deliver high doses of radiation directly to a tumour site with very little radiation being absorbed into healthy tissue.

PRaVDA, funded by a £1.6 million grant from the Wellcome Trust, will provide a unique instrument capable of producing real-time 3D images — a proton CT — of a patient, drawing data from the same protons used in the treatment itself.

The patent-pending technology, which uses detectors at the heart of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN alongside world-first radiation-hard CMOS imagers, will reduce dose uncertainties from several centimetres to just a few millimetres.

This promises to make proton therapy an option for thousands more cancer patients by reducing the risks of healthy tissue being damaged during treatment, particularly in vulnerable parts of the body such as the brain, eye and spinal cord.

Professor Allinson, who will also be talking about his research to prospective students at the University of Lincoln open day on Saturday, 20th September, said: “PRaVDA will ensure more difficult tumours will become treatable and more patients overall will be able to receive this revolutionary treatment.”

Other members of the PRaVDA team will also present their work at the conference, describing in more detail the high-speed tracking technology that can record the paths of individual protons as they enter and leave a patient. The team will also outline how they make and test the new detectors in PRaVDA to ensure they are resistant to the high levels of radiation present in proton therapy.

The researchers have just taken delivery of some of the technology which will lie at the heart of the system: two state-of-the-art custom integrated circuits (chips) which will underpin PRaVDA’s imaging capabilities.

One device is a radiation-hard CMOS imager, measuring 10cm x 6.5cm, and producing more than 1,500 images per second. The camera chip in a mainstream smartphone is a CMOS imager but PRaVDA’s chip is over 300 times larger and operates 50 times faster — the fastest large-area CMOS imager ever made. The completed PRaVDA instrument will contain 48 of these imagers, giving a total imaging area of nearly two-and-a-half square metres.

The second device is the read-out chip for the very high-speed strip detectors that track the passage of individual protons as they enter and exit a patient. This chip, called Rhea, converts the electric charge created by a passing proton into a digital signal with additional logic to provide accurate timing (to one hundredth of one millionth of a second) while preventing erroneous signals being recorded.

The strip detectors were designed at the University of Liverpool by the same team that developed detectors for the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, which led to the discovery of the Higgs Boson in 2013. Nearly 200 Rheas are used in the complete PRaVDA system.

PRaVDA’s industrial partner, ISDI LTD, designed both devices. Their testing was undertaken by the project’s second industrial partner, aSpect Systems GmbH, in Dresden, Germany.

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One-two punch for brain tumors? New clinical trial opens

The experimental approach, based on U-M research, delivers two different genes directly into the brains of patients following the operation to remove the bulk of their tumors.

The idea: trigger immune activity within the brain itself to kill remaining tumor cells — the ones neurosurgeons can’t take out, which make this type of tumor so dangerous.

It’s the first time this gene therapy approach is being tried in humans, after more than a decade of research in experimental models.

One of the genes is designed to kill tumor cells directly, and is turned on when the patient takes a certain drug. The other gene spurs the body’s own immune system to attack remaining cancer cells. Both are delivered into brain cells via a harmless virus.

The Phase I clinical trial has already enrolled two patients who have tolerated the gene delivery without complications. All patients in the study must have a presumptive diagnosis of WHO grade 3 or 4 malignant primary glioma, such as glioblastoma multiforme; patients must not have been treated yet by any therapy. They must also meet other criteria for inclusion in the trial.

More patients will be able to enroll at a pace of about one every three weeks, through a careful selection process. In addition to surgery and gene therapy at U-M, each will receive standard chemotherapy and radiation therapy as well as follow-up assessments for up to two years.

“We’re very pleased to see our years of research lead to a clinical trial, because based on our prior work we believe this combination of cell-killing and immune-stimulating approaches holds important promise,” says principal investigator Pedro Lowenstein, M.D., Ph.D., the U-M Medical School Department of Neurosurgery professor who has co-led the basic research effort to develop and test the strategy.

Co-leader Maria Castro, Ph.D., notes that the patients who agree to take part in the Phase I trial will be the first in the world to help establish the safety of the approach in humans. “Without them, and without our partners on the U-M Neurosurgery team, and donors to the Phase One Foundation that support our work, we wouldn’t be able to take this important step in testing this novel therapeutic approach.”

For more about the trial, visit or call 1-800-865-1125.

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New method for non-invasive prostate cancer screening

Now a team of researchers led by Shaoxin Li at Guangdong Medical College in China has demonstrated the potential of a new, non-invasive method to screen for prostate cancer, a common type of cancer in men worldwide. They describe their laboratory success testing an existing spectroscopy technique called surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) with a new, sophisticated analysis technique called support vector machine (SVM).

As they described in a new paper in Applied Physics Letters, from AIP Publishing, they combined SERS and SVM and applied them to blood samples collected from 68 healthy volunteers and 93 people who were clinically confirmed to have prostate cancer. They found their technique could identify the cases of cancer with an accuracy of 98.1 percent.

If the technique proves safe and effective in clinical trials, it may become a new method available to patients and their doctors, helping to improve the early detection and diagnosis of this type of cancer, said Li.

“The results demonstrate that label-free serum SERS analysis combined with SVM diagnostic algorithm has great potential for non-invasive prostate cancer screening,” said Li. “Compared to traditional screening methods, this method has the advantages of being non-invasive, highly sensitive and very simple for prostate cancer screening.”


According to the World Health Organization, prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men worldwide and a leading cause of cancer-related death. Every year, there are about 899,000 new cases and 260,000 mortalities, comprising 6 percent of all cancer deaths globally. About 1 in every 6 men will develop prostate cancer over their lifetimes.

While a simple blood test for elevated levels of a protein marker known as prostate specific antigen (PSA) has been used for years to screen for early cases of prostate cancer, the test is far from perfect because the elevated PSA levels can be caused by many things unrelated to cancer. This contributes to over-diagnosis, uncomfortable tissue biopsies and other unnecessary treatment, which can be costly and carry significant side effects. Because of this, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force now recommends against PSA-based screening for prostate cancer.

According to Li, many scientists have thought about applying SERS to cancer detection because the surface-sensitive type of spectroscopy has been around for years and is sensitive enough to identify key molecules in very low abundance, like pesticide residues on a contaminated surface. This would seem to make it perfect for spotting subtle signals of DNA, proteins or fatty molecules that would mark a case of cancer — exactly why he and his team tackled the problem.

The challenge, he said, was that these changes were, if anything, too subtle. The signal differences between the serum samples taken from the 68 healthy volunteers and the 93 people with prostate cancer were too tiny to detect. So to accurately distinguish between these samples, Li’s group employed a powerful spectral data processing algorithm, support vector machine (SVM), which effectively showed the difference.

While the work is preliminary, it shows that serum SERS spectroscopy combined with SVM diagnostic algorithm has the potential to be a new method for non-invasive prostate cancer screening, Li said. The next research step, he added, is to refine the method and explore whether this method can distinguish cancer staging.

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