June 20, 2024

Science – Marburg – Carbon ions against cancer: treatment started 25 years ago – Wikiwand

Darmstadt (dpa/lhe) – Carbon ions race at breakneck speed to tumours. During bombardment, the cells die and the tumor is supposed to retract. 25 years ago, clinical studies of a new type of cancer treatment began at the GSI Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research in Darmstadt. The GSI Helmholtz Center announced that “in August and September 1998, the first patients were treated with complete carbon therapy over a period of three weeks”. Over the years, the path has shifted from basic research to broad medical application.

By 2008, more than 440 patients with head or neck tumors had been treated with carbon atoms ions with great success. Today, private clinics in Heidelberg, Marburg and Shanghai use this treatment in the fight against cancer. According to the Helmholtz Center, the ions accelerate to high speeds of up to 70 percent of the speed of light, or about 210,000 kilometers per second. The faster the particles go, the deeper they penetrate the body.

Ion beam therapy can precisely destroy cancer cells while sparing surrounding tissue. And in Darmstadt, this happened with the help of a particle accelerator. The beam can be controlled with millimeter precision so that its destructive energy is concentrated in the tumour. A lot of energy is required to generate an ion beam.

According to the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, the treatment is not yet a standard application. Ion beam therapy is only an option for some tumors and is being researched further. “In the long term, ten percent of cancer patients who cannot stop tumor growth with conventional radiotherapy will benefit from ion beam therapy because it is technically impossible to administer a sufficiently high radiation dose,” says the Heidelberg Ion Beam Therapy Center. These patients have tumors deep in the body, highly resistant to conventional radiation, or surrounded by healthy, radiation-sensitive tissue.

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Due to the high costs of such treatment, the system at the Marburg Ionotherapy Center (MIT) has recently become a subject of frequent discussion. Not only is it a source of hope for patients, but it has also been the subject of controversy time and time again. This relates to the controversial privatization of the University Hospital in Giessen and Marburg, to which the facility belongs. Rhön-Klinikum AG, which was acquired by the Asklepios hospital group, committed itself to introducing the prestigious technology when it bought the university hospital in 2006. The company then paused the project for cost reasons. After extensive negotiations, the plant’s two-year existence was secured in June.

At the GSI Helmholtz Center in Darmstadt, an extension to the particle accelerator is currently being built on a huge construction site. The facility aims to provide more opportunities for basic research in the future. The electrically charged atoms are supposed to travel nearly the speed of light, roughly 300,000 kilometers per second.

© dpa-infocom, dpa:230826-99-964883/2