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The Heidelberg Ion-Beam Therapy Center (HIT)

Facts and Figures


Heidelberg University Hospital


Heidelberg Ion-Beam Therapy Center (HIT)

Im Neuenheimer Feld 450

69120 Heidelberg 

Scientific and Medical Director:

Prof. Jürgen Debus

Scientific and Technical director:

Prof. Thomas Haberer

Building size / architecture:

5,027 square meters (nearly the size of a soccer field); three stories, two of them underground. Three sections: above-ground glass structure with the staff offices; underground radiotherapy area; copper block with the heavy ion gantry that extends through all three stories (the gantry weighs 670 tons and is 13 meters in diameter)

Construction start/opening/dedication of the gantry:

May 2004/November 2009/October 2012

Total cost:

€119 million (50% funded by Heidelberg University Hospital and 50% by the German government)


The team of around 70 employees includes physicians, nursing staff, medical-technical radiology assistants, physicists, engineers and technicians.

Medical innovations:

  • HIT is the world’s first ion therapy facility with intensity-modulated raster scanning, the world’s most precise radiotherapy method.

  • HIT is the world’s first heavy ion treatment facility with a 360° rotating beam delivery system (gantry).

  • HIT is Europe’s first combined treatment facility using protons and heavy ions for radiation therapy.

  • HIT is the first facility to use cooperating robots for automated imaging and ultrahigh-precision patient positioning.

Radiation treatment rooms:

Three radiotherapy rooms for patient treatment with raster scanning and one irradiation facility for methodological tests and development projects. Two treatment rooms are equipped with a fixed horizontal beam, while a third room has 360° rotational ion beam delivery system source (gantry) that moves around the patient. The treatment tables are robot-controlled and can move in six ways in order to select the ideal beam entrance angle of the ion beam. Ceiling-mounted robots guide digital x-ray systems with which the position of the patient is determined prior to irradiation and can be fine-tuned automatically using the treatment table.

Radiation used: 

Ion beam radiation, also referred to as particle radiation. Protons and heavy ions are positively charged atomic nuclei (particles). Protons are positively charged nuclei of hydrogen atoms. Heavy ions are positively charged nuclei of atoms with a greater mass (at HIT, carbon, oxygen and helium ions are used). Ion radiation guarantees the highest possible precision. In addition, heavy ions have greater clinical efficacy than conventional irradiation with the same dose of photons.


It is expected that in the long term, ion beam therapy at HIT will help the up to approx. 10% of cancer patients whose tumor growth cannot be controlled with conventional radiation therapy because it is technically impossible to administer a sufficiently high radiation dose. These patients suffer from tumors that

  • are located deep in the body

  • are extremely resistant to conventional radiation

  • are surrounded by highly radiation-sensitive healthy tissue, such as the optic nerve, brain stem, spinal cord or the intestines.

At present the following types of tumors are irradiated at HIT:

  • chordomas and chondrosarcomas at the base of the skull
  • salivary gland carcinomas (including adenoid cystic carcinomas)
  • chordomas and chondrosarcomas in the pelvic region
  • pediatric tumors
  • neuro-oncological tumors
  • liver cell carcinomas
  • inoperable recurrent rectal cancer
  • inoperable bone sarcomas
  • prostate cancer

Tumor diseases in children:

Ion beam therapy is especially suitable for combating certain types of cancer in children. For children, it is especially important to prevent long-term adverse treatment effects. Ion beams are best suited for maximally sparing healthy tissue. This prevents growth and developmental deficits, as well as the development of secondary tumors.

Reimbursement of costs by health insurers:

Reimbursement of costs is arranged via agreements with the health insurers so that their members can benefit from this innovative.


Since HIT’s start-up in November 2009, over 5,000 patients have undergone radiotherapy in two horizontal irradiation sites. On October 19, 2012, the first three patients underwent radiotherapy with the gantry. Once it is fully operational and running at full capacity, starting in 2013, an estimated 750 patients will be treated per year.

Safety of Medical Devices

According to § 6 Abs. 1 MPBetreibV HIT has appointed a representative for medical device safety. This representative can be contacted by email.

Operating times:

HIT is in operation 24 hours a day. The beam generated is used around the clock, either for therapeutic or for research purposes. It is used for patient radiation six days a week for an estimated 12 to 14 hours a day.

Energy consumption:

The accelerators are in use 24 hours a day and are operated in shifts. HIT consumes a maximum of three megawatts, equivalent to the energy required for a small town with a population of approx. 3,000.