Successful pilot project at GSI

From 1997 to 2008, GSI has been operating a radiotherapy unit for cancer treatment using carbon ions at its accelerator facility, in collaboration with the Department of Radiology at the Heidelberg University Medical Center, the German Cancer Research Institute (DKFZ) and the Rossendorf Research Center near Dresden.

In the pilot study about 450 patients mostly suffering from tumors in the base of the skull were treated. These patients were usually scheduled for outpatient treatments lasting about 30 minutes on each of 20 consecutive days.

Subsequent monitoring of these patients over a five-year period revealed that the growth of the tumors was stopped in 75 to 90 percent of the patients, depending on the type of tumor. Side effects requiring treatment occurred only in very few cases. Based on these very positive results, this form of therapy is now an accepted medical procedure.

In the continuation of the pilot study patients with tumors of the vertebral column and with prostate cancer were treated.

Further technical innovations

To extend the treatment options, a rotatable beam positioning system – known as a gantry – was development at GSI. The clinical facility in Heidelberg is equipped with such a gantry. The gantry makes it possible to direct the beam into the patient’s body from any desired angle.

Another solution is under development for treating moving organs, such as the lung, in which the treatment beam must be made to track the respiratory movement of the treated tissues.