The treatment of moving target volumes with scanned particle beams has long been an important area of research in ion beam therapy. For intrafractional adaptive radiotherapy, i.e. in case of changes during an irradiation fraction, the focus is in the field of medical image processing, four-dimensional dosimetry and special methods in radiation planning.
Six research projects have been defined for the research period from 2019 to 2021, in addition to the required commissioning of carbon ions and 800 MeV protons.
Interfractional adaptive radiotherapy also deals with position changes of the target volumes, where the time interval of the movement is larger, i.e. changes between the individual radiation days (fractions). Treatment adaptations are based on magnetic resonance images, which provide information on morphological changes and changes in tumour characteristics. So-called deep learning approaches are also used for evaluating and further processing the individual images.
Research in the field of magnetic resonance-based beam application or development of combining magnetic resonance imaging and ion beam therapy is an emerging topic in radiotherapy. In contrast to photon therapy, the particle beam is directly influenced by the magnetic field in ion beam therapy. Studies on the effects on dose distribution, on dosimetric measurements and finally on patient treatment are the starting point for magnetic resonance-based particle therapy.
MedAustron offers the possibility to investigate proton computed tomography with energies of up to 800 MeV. Such high proton energies are not used in therapy. In order to reduce distance uncertainties in the irradiation planning process, it is of essential interest to improve determining the energy output of the particles.
Currently, treatment planning in ion beam therapy is based on the product of absorbed dose in water with a biological weighting factor. However, this approach is not sufficient for a comprehensive quantitative description of biological impacts. Therefore, microdosimetric spectra are recorded by means of experimental measurements, which represent the cornerstone for further correlation with biological data.
Preclinical research focuses on the investigation of molecular biological and immunological processes in the tumour and its microenvironment, which contributes significantly to the therapy resistance of the tumour. The effects of ion beam therapy on the tumour microenvironment are currently unknown and are being explored in adequate spheroid and xenograft models. In addition, it is planned to visualize and investigate radiation-induced processes in the tumour using non-invasive preclinical imaging techniques.
MORE ABOUT ACADEMIC THESES
Topics for academic theses
Due to the close cooperation of MedAustron with Austrian universities and universities of applied sciences, there is the unique possibility for students to do their final theses (MSc or BSc) at the MedAustron particle accelerator. Currently, student theses are possible in the following areas:
Our research partners
Topics: Dosimetry for protons and carbon ions, dosimetry for small field sizes, microdosimetry, linear energy transfer, thermoluminescence detectors, dose measurement with films, quality assurance, dose area product, radiation protection, dosimetry for X-rays, effects of magnetic fields
Applied particle physics and detector technology
Topics: Imaging by means of computed tomography with protons and ions, i.e. hardware-related programming (FPGA, VHDL), particle tracking, energy measurement of ions by means of calorimeter, image reconstruction from measured and simulated data; tests of semiconductor detectors
Image processing and irradiation planning in ion beam therapy
Topics: (multi-parametric) magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography, image processing with neural networks, image-guided radiation therapy, radiation planning for new particle types and moving tumours, comparative treatment planning studies in protons and carbon ions
Computer simulation and software development
Topics: Monte Carlo simulations using Geant4, GATE, FLUKA, PHITS; dose calculation, fragmentation effects; detector modelling; beam line modelling; extension of the Monte Carlo framework; validation measurements; optimization of experimental setups
Preclinical radiation biology
Topics: Irradiation of cell lines and spheroids and subsequent investigation of radiation-induced processes in different tumour models. This includes studies in cell culture by using immunological and molecular biological methods (e.g. immunohistology, Western blots and ELISA).
Topics: Imaging based on CT, SPECT and PET
Examples of completed scientific work
For the implementation of research projects, scientists can use both proton and carbon ion beam to a defined extent as well as dedicated premises.
The beam parameters essentially comprise those that are also intended for medical use. The only exception is the maximum proton energy, which can be increased up to 800 MeV.
A separate irradiation room, which is not used for patients, has the following properties:
- room size of about 96 m² with the possibility of two radiation stations one behind the other
- robotic positioning and verification system (ring imaging system), which is identical to the that used in the clinical irradiation rooms
- removeable nozzle, research magnet with a maximum magnetic field of 1 T, external cooling facilities, cooling-down room and local control room
According to the main research areas in radiation biology, radiation physics and applied particle physics, scientists can also use differently equipped laboratories, for example:
- cell culture laboratory with incubators and laminar flow workstations
- chemistry laboratory with digester, staining devices and safety cabinets workbenches, microscopes
- X-ray reference source, VME electronics and much more.
- dosimetry laboratory with different dosimetric systems and phantoms
- software laboratory with several irradiation planning systems and Monte Carlo applications
The research infrastructure at MedAustron also includes preparation and storage rooms as well as office workstations and a meeting room.