50 years GSI



The new accelerator facility FAIR is under construction at GSI. Learn more.


GSI is member of


Funded by




Collaboration of CNAO and GSI to develop a next generation ion beam therapy system

Photo: CNAO

Therapy cave at CNAO.

Image: CC BY 2.5 Patrick Lynch (modified)/C.Graeff

General purpose of the control system.



The Italian National Center for Oncological Hadrontherapy “Centro Nazionale di Adroterapia Oncologica” (CNAO) and the GSI Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research signed a contract to improve the technology of cancer therapy with heavy ions. Within the collaboration the established CNAO control system will be installed and further developed at GSI in Darmstadt.

Ion beam therapy has been established as cutting edge technology in the fight against cancer permitting a more precise irradiation in comparison to conventional therapy with high doses to the tumour while sparing surrounding healthy tissue. CNAO in Italy is one of the facilities in Europe where this radiation modality is available for therapy; it uses the raster scan technology that has been developed at GSI. To enhance this technique the irradiation control system of CNAO will now be installed at GSI. “The control system developed at CNAO has the advantage of flexibility and easy maintenance because it is based on modern industrial components”, explains Michael Scholz, head of the GSI Biophysics department. “This facilitates rapid implementation of the new developments planned at GSI.”

The main goals of these improvements are to reduce the irradiation time and to integrate motion management techniques, allowing a more precise treatment of tumors that move with breathing. The transfer of these upgrades to the clinical environment for the benefit of patients is then largely facilitated thanks to the close collaboration with CNAO. “We expect this collaboration to offer great advantages for the future treatment of patients with moving tumoral targets, such as liver or lung cancer”, says Sandro Rossi, General Director of CNAO. First test irradiations with the new control system at the GSI therapy cave are planned for 2018.

CNAO and GSI have been collaborating successfully for many years. For the therapy center in Italy GSI for example developed, installed and launched parts of the injector linear accelerator as well as of the beam diagnostics system.

CNAO as Italian National Center for oncological Hadrontherapy  is in operation since 2011 and has treated more than 1300 patients. Besides tremendous clinical experience, CNAO also developed the center’s technology in large parts and also licensed it for medical use. This includes a so-called dose delivery system, the real-time computers and detectors controlling the precise irradiation of patients with scanned ion beams. This system is in operation in two centers, both at CNAO and at the new Austrian therapy center MedAustron.

GSI played a pioneering role in the establishment of heavy ion therapy in Europe, with a pilot project treating 440 patients with carbon ion beams from 1997 to 2008. The raster scanning technique was developed here which is now established as state of the art in modern particle therapy centers. GSI also has a long standing experience in the therapy development of moving targets such as lung cancer. Several new technologies such as beam tracking or 4D-optimization were pioneered and experimentally tested here.

Therapy cave at CNAO.
General purpose of the control system.
For the scanned ion beam therapy a thin ion beam is precisely directed at the target. Centerpiece of this system is the control system, which processes the measurements of the dose and the beam position and operates the magnets for the beam deflection.
Photo: CNAO
Image: CC BY 2.5 Patrick Lynch (modified)/C.Graeff