Piloting a FLASH Radiotherapy Beam Development for Treatment of Cancer

FLASH Beam air ionization

A joint team of researchers from Radiation Oncology at Dartmouth’s and Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Norris Cotton Cancer Center (NCCC), Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering, and Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Department of Surgery have developed a method to convert a standard linear accelerator, used for delivery of radiation therapy cancer treatment, to a ‘FLASH’ ultra-high dose rate radiation therapy beam.

The exceptionally high dose rate is 3,000 times higher than normal therapy treatment (300 Gray per second vs. 0.1 Gray per second). Instead of treatment over 20 seconds, an entire treatment is completed in 6 milliseconds. “These high dose rates have been shown to protect normal tissues from excess damage while still having the same treatment effect on tumor tissues, and so may be critically important for limiting radiation damage in patients receiving radiation therapy,” says Brian Pogue, PhD, co-director of NCCC’s Translational Engineering in Cancer Research Program and co-author on the project with professors David Gladstone, Rongxiao Zhang, Petr Bruza and P. Jack Hoopes, written by PhD students Ronny Rahman and Ramish Ashraf.

Pre-clinical testing of the beam began in August and will provide data on its potential for different tumor plans. “This is the first such beam in New England and on the east coast, and we believe it is the first reversible FLASH beam on a clinical linac with standard patient geometry in the world,” says Pogue.

While the team awaits review of their U01 Research Project Cooperative Agreement application submitted to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), pilot funding from NCCC and Thayer allowed for prototyping of the converted linac. The work, entitled Electron FLASH Delivery at Treatment Room Isocenter for Efficient Reversible Conversion of a Clinical LINAC has also been reported Aug 16, 2020 in the online arXiv publication arXiv:2008.06980 [physics.med-ph].