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Biomedical Applications of Radioactive ion Beams

Project description

Improving the applicability of cancer radiotherapy

Charged particle therapy (CPT) using accelerated protons or heavy ions offers certain advantages compared to standard cancer radiotherapy using X-rays. However, issues regarding range uncertainty and poor image guidance limit the widespread applicability of CPT in cancer therapy. The EU-funded BARB project aims to address this problem by employing high-intensity radioactive ion beams that will enable the treatment of small lesions with unprecedented precision. In addition, to facilitate simultaneous treatment and visualisation, scientists will develop an innovative hybrid detector that combines positron emission tomography (PET) and gamma ray imaging. Considering that nearly 50 % of cancer cases undertake radiotherapy treatment, this optimised CPT approach will improve treatment outcome in a significant number of patients.


Cancer remains one of the main causes of death worldwide. In 2018, >50% cancer patients in Europe underwent radiotherapy. While over 80% were treated using high-energy X-rays, the number of patients receiving accelerated protons or heavy ions (charged particle therapy: CPT) is rapidly growing, with nearly 200,000 patients treated up till now. Although CPT offers a better depth-dose distribution compared to common X-ray based techniques, range uncertainty and poor image guidance still limit its application.
Improving accuracy is key to broadening the applicability of CPT. In BARB, we will open a new paradigm in the clinical use of CPT by using high-intensity radioactive ion beams (RIB), produced at GSI/FAIR-phase-0 in Darmstadt, for simultaneous treatment and visualization. This will reduce range uncertainty and extend the applicability of CPT to treatment of small lesions (e.g. metastasis and heart ventricles) with unprecedented precision.
The Facility for Antiprotons and Ion Research (FAIR) is currently under construction at GSI. RIB are one of the main tools for basic nuclear physics studies in the new facility. As part of the ongoing FAIR-phase-0, an intensity upgrade will increase the light ion currents in the existing SIS18 synchrotron. Within this project BARB, we will study four b+ emitters (10,11C, and 14,15O) and build an innovative hybrid detector for online positron emission tomography (PET) and g-ray imaging. This novel detector will acquire both prompt g-rays during the beam-on phase of the pulsed synchrotron beam delivery, and the delayed emission from b+ annihilation during the pulse intervals. The technique will be further validated in vivo by applying it to treatment of small tumors in a mouse model.
BARB will exploit the potential of the Bragg peak in medicine. The project will tweak RIB production in nuclear physics and validate the therapeutic potential of RIB therapy in vivo by empowering simultaneous treatment and visualization.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 2 000 000,00
64291 Darmstadt

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Hessen Darmstadt Darmstadt, Kreisfreie Stadt
Activity type
Total cost
€ 2 000 000,00

Beneficiaries (2)