The Proton Therapy Center at Institut Curie: focus on the future

Since it opened in 2010, the Proton Therapy Center has continued to evolve and develop in order to be able to offer this form of radiotherapy to as many patients as possible, as well as to improve the other radiotherapy techniques.

A high-tech hub, the Proton Therapy Center has always been a pilot hospital center in terms of research and development.


Robots to position the patient

Since these beginnings, the Proton Therapy Center has been developing robotic and imaging systems to position the patient. In 1995, it was the first center to be equipped with a positioner using a “real” industrial medical-use robot to entirely automate this step.

This unique expertise continues to be put to use. Ongoing improvements are made by the center’s technical team on positioning systems for robots, restraint systems and real-time situation of the patient.


Accelerator & beam

Developments have also been made to the quality of the proton beam and its optimum adjustment to the outline of each tumor.

The teams at the Proton Therapy Center and IBA (the supplier of the accelerator) are working together to develop appropriate tools to check the delivery of the dose to the patient. A major milestone was reached recently with deployment of PBS, which scans the tumor with the proton beam. The result is that tumors with more complex volumes may benefit and more tumor types can be treated.


Biology of radiation

To optimize the use of proton therapy, it is essential to better understand how protons damage tumor cells and destroy them.

Several research programs are therefore underway to better understand the effects of protons on biological matter.

The main goal is to identify the mechanisms responsible for the difference between the biological effects of protons and conventional rays.

One lead involves studying Flash rays, which treat quickly and intensely. This appears to be a good way to limit the side effects of radiotherapy. The idea would be to deploy this method of proton therapy irradiation and find out whether the effects observed are the same as with classic radiotherapy.


Software to anticipate the effect of radiation

Another of the center’s fields of expertise is the development of software to simulate the trajectory of protons and their energy deposit in the material. This is the aim of the “Proton therapy: development and validation of a tool for precise and rapid Monte Carlo simulation and modeling of the deposit of the dose (PROUESSE)” project, which will help physicians and physicists learn more about the distribution of the dose in the patient’s body after the proton beam has passed. This project involves physicians and physicists from hospitals, researchers from several bodies (in particular the CEA, which is leading the project), and a manufacturer. The development of this type of software is vital for improving therapeutic precision even further.

In parallel to the crucial clinical research in proton therapy, research and R&D projects continue to make this ultra-precise radiotherapy technique a model for conventional radiotherapy.