It is not readily available, it has only been used in a few thousand cases worldwide, and experts are not yet 100% sure it is the future of cancer treatment, but one thing that is known – in 2012 leading medical centers around the world want to start using carbon ions to destroy cancer cells. Carbon ions are a more powerful version of what is known as Hadron Therapy, the use of intense beams of protons targeting cancer cells. These beams are often able to be effective where other cancer therapies are not. Furthermore, while traditional radiation therapy damages cells around the cancer, Hadron therapy does not.
If the name sounds familiar, that would be because the design for the synchrotron accelerator that would be needed to generate the beam originated from studies done at CERN, the famous European laboratory which works with the LHC (Large Hadron Collider). The design was recently implemented at the cutting edge National Centre for Oncological Hadron Therapy in Italy, where the first patients were treated with proton beams this past September. By mid 2012 they intend to begin using carbon ion beams.
Italy is not the only country where proton beams are being used to treat cancer, the Mayo Clinic, one of the US’s most important medical institutions, began work this month on what will be its second proton beam facility. Across the country there are nine other proton facilities currently functioning, with another 7 in development. Japan is the global leader in carbon ion treatment, responsible for most of the almost 7,000 clinical trials that have been carried out. While others lag behind in terms of their implementation of proton and carbon ion beams, it definitely looks like 2012 will see a major increase in the use of these very powerful types of cancer treatment.
Source: Symmetry Magazine
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