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Boron Neutron Capture Therapy - First clinical trials in Europe

The first clinical trials of Boron Neutron Capture Therapy (BNCT) are now underway at the European Commission's Joint Research Centre facility in Petten (The Netherlands). This innovative form of radiotherapy has been developed as a result of ten years of cooperative research ...
The first clinical trials of Boron Neutron Capture Therapy (BNCT) are now underway at the European Commission's Joint Research Centre facility in Petten (The Netherlands). This innovative form of radiotherapy has been developed as a result of ten years of cooperative research between European research institutes and hospitals.

The research carried out has been supported throughout by the European Community's specific RTD programme in the field of Biomedicine and Health (BIOMED) and by the Commission's Joint Research Centre. The treatment developed is now being tested for the first time in Europe on patients suffering from a particularly aggressive type of brain cancer called "glio blastoma". This cancer, which generally shows little response to traditional treatment, affects annually about 15,000 persons in Europe.

BNCT involves injecting patients with a non-toxic boron compound, a new drug that has the characteristic of being selectively absorbed by cancer cells within several hours. The brain is then irradiated using the neutron beam of the JRC's High Flux Reactor. Neutrons are captured by boron isotopes, then disintegrate by emitting alpha radiation that destroy cancer cells. The chances of neutrons being captured by cancerous cells containing boron is 3000 times or so higher than that of a normal cell. This allows the selective killing of tumour cells and limits the damage done to normal tissue around the target cell.

The trial will treat 40 patients who have already been operated in their country. Patients will come from neurosurgery departments of hospitals involved in the study: Amsterdam (VU) in The Netherlands, Bremen (ZKH) and Munich (LMU) in Germany, Graz (KFU) in Austria, Nice (CAL) in France, Lausanne (CHUV) in Switzerland. During their stay in The Netherlands, the patients are hospitalised at the VU hospital in Amsterdam and travel daily to Petten.

The clinical study is performed as an EORTC (European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer) trial. The University of Essen (Germany) has the overall clinical responsibility and also provides the radiotherapists and medical physicists. The Joint Research Centre brings the scientific and technical support for the operating of the neutron beam and the operational safety of the facility, with the cooperation of the Netherlands Energy Research Foundation (ECN). The coordination of the study is ensured by the University of Bremen.

This is the first multi-national clinical application in Europe, where patients from one European country are treated in another country by physicians from a third country. It opens the way to organize clinical schemes that would use sophisticated and unique facilities to treat patients.

Source: European Commission, Service du Porte-parole

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