New Research Projects for Cancer Treatment

In the field of research, MedAustron, the Medical University of Vienna and the Vienna University of Technology have been working together successfully for several years. On this year’s World Cancer Research Day, the partners presented the new research program, which continues already successful projects, sets new priorities and involves additional research partners. A major requirement for this – the availability of carbon ions and protons at the highest energy level – has recently been met and creates the basis for exciting projects that will ultimately contribute to improving cancer treatment.

In addition to the treatment of cancer patients, research has had a firm place at MedAustron from the beginning. The facility in Wiener Neustadt is the only particle therapy center in the world in which research not only has its own irradiation room, but the particle accelerator can also provide protons in energies significantly higher than those of clinical application. With these prerequisites, the researchers have the opportunity to investigate internationally competitive topics, which are summarized in the new research program 2019 - 2021.

As early as 2016, science operations started with the availability of protons at MedAustron. In the first three years, the research groups of the two universities produced more than 50 scientific papers and about 30 publications. The new programme builds on the knowledge that has been created and also takes into account the extended range of uses due to the carbon ions and higher proton energies that are now available.

"MedAustron is an excellent example of how close research is to people. It is a unique project worldwide - it is a cancer therapy and research center in one. As a cancer therapy center, MedAustron fulfills an important social and health policy task, and as a research center it is one of the showcase projects in our country. Our goal is to improve treatment options for critically ill Austrians, and technical developments also primarily serve to improve care for cancer patients. At the same time, they open up an expanded spectrum of research opportunities. The Republic of Austria has supported this new facility with 40 million euros," said Research Minister Iris Rauskala.  

"With MedAustron in Wiener Neustadt, Austria has a high-quality research infrastructure that offers Austrian scientists unique opportunities in many areas. For the Vienna University of Technology these are non-clinical medical radiation physics, e.g. the development of a new tomography procedure or the investigation of the interaction of secondary radiation and tissue in order to avoid damage to healthy tissue, as well as the scientific advancement of accelerators for medical purposes," Sabine Seidler, Rector of the Vienna University of Technology, describes the cooperation.

"MedUni Vienna has a unique infrastructure at MedAustron to research the biological and physical basics of ion therapy. At the same time, this cooperation also supports our general, strategic interest in translating research results into practice - we will succeed in the best possible way with the partners and opportunities at MedAustron," said Michaela Fritz, Vice-Rector for Research and Innovation at MedUni Vienna.

Klaus Schneeberger, Chairman of MedAustron's Supervisory Board, emphasized: "In the field of cancer therapy, knowledge about the mechanisms of these diseases is growing rapidly. Our goal at MedAustron is to contribute to improved diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. At MedAustron we can play an active role in shaping the future because it combines cancer therapy and research at the highest international level. I am confident that thanks to the professional and committed teams on the part of the universities and MedAustron and the support of the Ministry of Science, we can expect many new insights for the benefit of cancer patients in the future".

The topics of this research program include intrafraction and interfraction adaptive radiation therapy, imaging with ion beams, magnetic resonance guided particle therapy, energy transfer mechanisms and applications in biology and physics, and pre-clinical research. The priorities set reflect on the one hand the Europe-wide prioritized topics of ion beam research and on the other hand take into account the clinical needs at MedAustron by being fully in line with the roadmap for the introduction of new indications. MedAustron as an outpatient clinic has a high interest in methods for the treatment of moving target volumes or the research of as yet unused potentials of carbon ion therapy, in order to design new innovative clinical studies and finally to be able to further expand the spectrum of tumors that can be treated with ion therapy.

According to the excellent expertise of the institutes, research projects are currently carried out mainly in cooperation with the Medical University of Vienna and the Vienna University of Technology. In addition, there is close cooperation with the Wiener Neustadt University of Applied Sciences, the Institute for High Energy Physics of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the Medical University of Graz.


Photo (© Foto Baldauf): Thomas Schreiner (Coordinator Nonclinical Research MedAustron), Sabine Seidler (Rector of the Vienna University of Technology), Klaus Schneeberger (Chairman of the Supervisory Board MedAustron), Dietmar Georg (Medical University of Vienna, Professor of Medical Radiation Physics & Oncotechnology), Michaela Fritz (Vice Rector for Research and Innovation MedUni Vienna), Iris Rauskala (Federal Minister of Education, Science and Research), Alfred Zens (Managing Director MedAustron)