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Scientists seek £2m cancer laser


Posted on: 03/30/2007

Scientists seek £2m cancer laser


SCIENTISTS in Glasgow have launched a £2million bid to create a laser-powered machine that offers new hope to people with brain cancer.

A team from Strathclyde University is developing a miniature "proton accelerator" that uses minute particles, rather than radiation, to kill off tumours.

And it could make difficult tumours, such as those in the brain or eye, much easier and safer to treat.

Professor Ken Ledingham said: "We're calling on the scientific community to support a dedicated project studying the feasibility of an entirely new approach to cancer therapy.

"Cancer is one of the UK's biggest killers and, although current particle technology is proving successful abroad, the huge cost has prevented the treatment becoming widely available in the UK."

Radiotherapy uses powerful X-rays to kill a tumour but some of the energy is absorbed by healthy tissue.

This limits the amount of treatment that can be given to a patient.

Doctors have to avoid damaging vital tissue, particularly when a cancerous growth is in the brain.

A beam of protons can be passed relatively harmlessly through healthy tissue before releasing its energy inside the tumour.

This allows more powerful treatment with less risk and some tumours can be destroyed in just one session, with the patient returning home the next day.

But existing machines used to generate them are huge and have to be housed in custom-made buildings to absorb large amounts of radiation released in the process.

As a result, they can cost up to £100m.

Publication date 30/03/07

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