Cancer is one of the most feared diseases. Radiotherapy is commonly used in about 50% of all cancer patients. Although the radiotherapeutic protocols have been improved significantly, only a limited number of patients are entirely cured and severe side effects are often induced. Hadrontherapy and protontherapy are approaches superior to conventional photon radiotherapy because of the maximal energy they deposit at the end of the track (the Bragg peak) and the absence of damage induced behind the tumor. However, the technique is limited by the damage caused along the beam path in healthy tissue located in front of the tumour.
Dr. Lacombe's work focuses on improving the hadrontherapy performances using metal nanoparticles (NPs) as radiosensitizers. This is a highly innovative strategy aiming at increasing efficiency and tumour targeting of the treatments. So far, the group focused on the physical properties of the nanoparticles. The objective of my project is to characterize fully the biological effects induced by NPs in DNA and living cells, submitted to medical ion radiations. During the project I will address the cellular toxicity, localization, uptake and quantification of NPs, and I will specifically dissect the cellular response to the combined treatment of NPs and fast ions/protons down to the molecular pathways. To answer these questions, I will make use of the highly advanced experimental instruments and methods available at the host institution and collaborating laboratories. The results obtained during this project will be highly relevant not only for the research community, but also for the industrial sector that synthetizes the NPs and for the medical community who will be closely involved in the project. This multidisciplinary research at the interface of physics, chemistry and biology is unique in Europe and promises novel propositions for future cancer treatments.
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