A new tool measures the radiation dose delivered to cancer cells


The FIRE research project, which brought together researchers from INFN, CNR, and the Universities of Bologna, Naples, Roma Tre, Padua, and Trento, has developed a flexible and cost-efficient proton detector that maximizes the efficacy of radiotherapy therapies by monitoring precise doses of radiation delivered to cancer cells.

Presenting the detector in the Nature Partner Journal Series, Flexible Electronics, of the prestigious Nature Journal Portfolio under Flexible fully organic indirect detector for megaelectronvolts proton beams.

Even if future clinical trials conducted on patients receive positive results, the fully organic dosimeter will allow real-time measurement of the amount of radiation released on cancer cells by the proton beams used in radiotherapy, maximizing effectiveness with high comfort and low risk for the patient.

In the case of rectal or prostate cancer, radiation therapy with photon beams or high-energy charged particles is usually used with chemotherapy before and sometimes even after surgery with great effectiveness. Here, proton beams aim to damage the DNA of the cancer cells, preventing their replication. A crucial aspect of the therapy is the control of the radiation dose that must be sufficient to destroy the directed cells, but not as high as to damage the healthy tissues close to the treated region. Therefore, monitoring the protons administered to the patient in real-time is fundamental.

Thanks to its small size and flexibility, which make it extremely easy to apply to any part of the body, the fields of application of the FIRE proton detector range from medical diagnostics and therapy to astrophysics.