Physicists from the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in the UK have collaborated with the German Cancer Research Centre and the University of Munich to develop a new mathematical algorithm to advance microbeam radiation therapy (MRT) for the treatment of cancer.

MRT employs high-energy X-ray beams to target tumours with radiation while having a mild effect on healthy tissue. The therapy is said to enable treatment of tumours that cannot be removed with surgery such as those in the brain or lungs.

While MRT has the potential for cancer treatment in the future, existing methods used for planning the correct treatment doses are reported to take days to process for computers.

The new algorithm is designed to take more three minutes, as opposed to 100 hours.

“Our algorithm can calculate dose distributions in treatment planning in minutes.”

It is expected to aid in providing cancer patients with a quick, safe and accurate treatment using MRT.

The mathematical tool is currently being used in treatment planning at France’s European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) with a radiation machine that produces high-energy X-rays.

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ICR Radiotherapy Physics Modelling post-doctoral training fellow Dr Stefan Bartzsch said: “Our algorithm can calculate dose distributions in treatment planning in minutes.

“It has already been incorporated into treatment planning systems for more testing and we hope it will bring forward the treatment of patients with MRT through the first clinical trials of this pioneering technology.”