GSI in one of the 10 breakthroughs of 2022: Investigating new weapons in the fight against cancer

World’s leading oncology journal dedicates its cover story to the FLASH method in which GSI has a leading role


It could become a powerful weapon in the fight against cancer and open up completely new possibilities for tumor therapy with charged particles. FLASH irradiation – the application of an ultra-high radiation dose in a very short time – is in strong focus worldwide and is being advanced with high expertise at GSI and FAIR. FLASH clinical implementation is one of the top 10 Breakthroughs of the Year 2022 according to "Physics World". In its December issue, the world’s leading high-impact journal for oncology "Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology" presents the FLASH method as its current cover story. The head of GSI biophysics department, Prof. Marco Durante, is one of the three authors.

At GSI/FAIR, the scientists are working on constantly improving particle therapy through new technologies and treatment procedures for the benefit of society. The new FLASH method is a highly promising approach. During the FAIR Phase 0 experimental period the scientists succeeded in performing a carbon ion FLASH experiment on the GSI/FAIR campus for the first time. In addition, GSI/FAIR joins forces in an international cooperation with participants from industry and science to advance medical-technical developments in the field of FLASH therapy. The goal is to pave the way to clinical application.

The cover story in “Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology” refers to a recent research paper by Professor Marco Durante, Head of GSI’s Biophysics, and Dr. Marie-Catherine Vozenin and Professor Jean Bourhis, Lausanne University Hospital and University of Lausanne, which is entitled “Towards clinical translation of FLASH radiotherapy”. The authors describe the worldwide status of this highly innovative treatment method and evaluate possible perspectives for FLASH radiotherapy.

In their conclusion, they summarize: “At present, FLASH radiotherapy has largely sparked the imagination and interest of radiation scientists and oncologists. The advantages of ultra-short treatments at high doses of radiation go beyond the potential widening of the therapeutic window, because short treatment times could also improve the comfort of the patient and the workflow of clinical centers, even if imaging time will remain a limiting factor for accelerating such workflows”. They also provide an overview: “In translational and clinical research, studies on the dose and fraction dependence, tissue specificity, combined treatments and, of course, phase I trials are the highest priority. The future of FLASH radiotherapy will strongly depend on the results of these experiments and the answers to some key questions, including those we have discussed herein”.

The Scientific Managing Director of GSI and FAIR, Professor Paolo Giubellino, said: „GSI and FAIR are leading research centers in the research and development of FLASH therapy. I am very glad to see the current research placed so prominently in one of the most impactful scientific media for oncology showing the overall importance of this topic. This demonstrates once again how strongly our basic research boosts the development of new technologies and methods of high societal impact. Together with strong partners, we are working hard to ensure that our scientific breakthroughs will serve society.” (BP)

Further information

Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology

Physics World