New research published in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology & Physics describes a new method for delivering radiation therapy. The method modifies a standard linear accelerator (LINAC) that is typically used for radiation treatment, adjusting it to instead deliver a FLASH ultra-high-dose rate radiation therapy beam. The FLASH beam delivers 3,000 times the dose rate of conventional radiation therapy in a fraction of the time.
The study, titled "Electron FLASH Delivery at Treatment Room Isocenter for Efficient Reversible Conversion of a Clinical LINAC," was conducted by an interdisciplinary team of Dartmouth researchers from Radiation Oncology at Dartmouth-Hitchcock's Norris Cotton Cancer Center and Dartmouth Engineering, as well as Dartmouth-Hitchcock's Department of Surge.
"This is the first such beam in New England and on the east coast, and we believe it is the first reversible FLASH beam on a clinically used LINAC where the beam can be used in the conventional geometry with patients on the treatment couch," says co-author Brian Pogue, PhD, who is Co-Director of NCCC's Translational Engineering in Cancer Research Program.
"These high dose rates have been shown to protect normal tissues from excess damage while still having the same treatment effect on tumor tissues, and may be critically important for limiting radiation damage in patients receiving radiation therapy," Pogue adds.
The team began pre-clinical testing with a prototype of the modified LINAC last summer and is currently in the experimental testing stages with animal tumors in clinical veterinary therapies. The information gathered from these trials will provide crucial data regarding the potential FLASH holds for avoiding damage to healthy tissue. If all goes as planned, the team hopes to introduce the first human safety trial with FLASH radiotherapy at Dartmouth-Hitchcock.