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Laboratory for High Energy Physics


Medical Applications of Particle Physics

First Bern Cyclotron Symposium (June 6 & 7, 2011).

Particle accelerators and detectors can be considered today as fundamental tools in many fields of modern medicine. In particular, the production of isotopes for PET (Positron Emission Tomography) and the high precision irradiation of deep seated tumors with proton beams (proton-therapy) represent two of the most modern hi-tech developments in the fight against cancer.

The production of short lived isotopes for PET is usually performed by means of a 10-20 MeV cyclotron equipped with a radiochemical laboratory for the production of radiopharmaceutical molecules to be injected in the patient. Due to the short decay time, the proximity of a hospital equipped with a PET scanner is crucial, especially for some new tracers under development.

The precise and early detection of a disease is the first key issue for the success of a therapy. Once this first goal is achieved, the second objective is to perform a precise, effective and as less invasive as possible treatment. In cancer therapy, due to their characteristic depth-dose distribution, proton beams allow to irradiate the tumor volume with very high precision and to spare at best the surrounding healthy tissues. Proton-therapy requires large installations where 250 MeV cyclotrons or synchrotrons are used to accelerate the protons which are then guided to the target by means of beam lines and rotating structures for the final irradiation. The clinical beams must be continuously controlled and measured by specifically conceived particle detectors. Proton-therapy represents today one of the most successful applications of particle physics to medicine.

In collaboration with the Inselspital, the university hospital in Bern, LHEP is involved in the constitution of an innovative centre for advanced diagnostics, radiation therapy and research. Within a multidisciplinary environment, LHEP is sharing its competences in particle accelerators and detectors and is developing innovative tools to continue the long tradition of particle physics to provide medicine and biology tools and techniques to study, detect and attack the disease.

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