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Biopyhisics in Particle Therapy

Recent technological advances have made cutting-edge particle therapy modalities more accessible to the general public. Light (1H, 4He) and heavy (12C ,16O) ion beams exhibit favourable therapeutic properties for cancer therapy, affording clinicians the power to deliver radiation dose to tumours with high precision and conformity while significantly sparing surrounding healthy tissues and critical anatomic structures. Through application of state-of-the-art delivery systems, such as three-dimensional intensity-controlled raster scanning, patients with aggressive radio-resistant disease can be effectively treated at facilities like the Heidelberg Ion Beam Therapy Center (HIT).

To fully exploit charged particle therapy (CPT) with the utmost precision, modelling and predicting biophysical processes elicited from particle beam interactions within the human body, must be performed on both macroscopic and microscopic scales.

To this end, the major goals of the Biophysics in Particle Therapy group (BiPT) are to introduce advanced computational methods for CPT into clinical environments, improve the accuracy of the clinical treatment planning systems (TPS) used daily by clinicians, support the validation, commissioning and routine clinical use of the TPS against dosimetric and in vitro biological measurements, and develop both analytical and Monte Carlo simulation-based tools for all beam modalities available at HIT (1H, 4He, 12C and 16O).  A combination of these efforts with clinical investigations using large patient cohorts aims to link clinical outcome to physical, biological and clinical endpoints to utilize light and heavy ion therapy in more patient-specific treatment agendas.

The driving philosophy of the group involves the assimilation of multi-dimensional solutions to key issues in particle therapy to better understand underlying physical and biological mechanisms. In practice, this involves the development and application of both analytical (see subsection 1) and Monte Carlo (see subsection 2) tools for dose computation, as well as sophisticated models to describe biological effects in particle therapy, through either biophysical or phenomenological approaches (see subsection 3).

Andrea Mairani, PhD
Stewart ‘Mac’ Mein, MS
Benedikt Kopp, MSc
Friderike Faller, BA

Collaborating groups:
All BiPT projects are in collaboration with the following groups:
Medical Physics Section, Heidelberg University Hospital (Prof. Dr. Markus Alber)
Translational Radiation Oncology Research group, DKFZ (Dr. Amir Abdollahi)
Medical physics team, CNAO (Kyungdon Choi, Mario Ciocca)
The Normandy Proton Therapy Centre (Dr. Thomas Tessonnier)
FLUKA Development team at CERN (Dr. Alfredo Ferrai)
Bergen University (Dr. Kristian Ytre-Hauge)
The Danish Center for Particle Therapy (Dr. Ole Nørrevang)

BiPT Alumni:
Tsz Ching ‘Purple’ Fok, MS

Latest Updates:
FRoG is under installation at the Danish Center for Particle Therapy (DCPT)
Choi’s paper on biological dose calculation using FRoG at CNAO has been published (Cancers)
Mein’s paper on FRoG’s development and validation at HIT has been published (Scientific Reports)

Available thesis projects:

  1. Raster-Scanning Helium (4He) ion beam therapy: development and validation of novel treatment planning system for biophysical modeling and optimization in the clinic. Prerequisite: physics/medical physics background.
  2. Developmental support and clinical integration of the FRoG platform at the newly-opened Danish Centre for Particle Therapy (DCPT) in Aarhus, Denmark. The master thesis work will involve traveling to Denmark to acquire experimental data at DCPT in collaboration with the medical physics team, and benchmarking the FRoG system’s predictions against experimental data. Requirements: Prerequisite: physics/medical physics background.
  3. Development and dosimetric validation of a fast Monte Carlo dose kernel for light and heavy ion beam therapy for clinical and research support at HIT in Heidelberg.  Prerequisite: a strong programming background (preferably C++, CUDA or C).

For more information, contact Dr. Andrea Mairani via email with CV attached.