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Applied nuclear physics for biomedicine, nuclear security and basic science
Date:6/2/2010

mma rays, instead of lower-energy x-rays or visible light, to see through intervening matter and detect illicit radioactive sources. In its first iteration, the imager had to be carried around on a truck.

Berkeley Lab's descendant of this imager is called the Compact Compton Imager 2 (CCI-2) and fits on a cart, although Mihailescu says "it still weighs a ton." The ARRA grant is intended to help Mihailescu and Vetter refine a truly compact imager, working with colleagues including I-Yang Lee, who heads the GRETINA gamma-ray tracking collaboration. While it will be useful for security applications and also for basic science, the principal task of the new imager will be to improve the reliability and practicality of cancer therapy using heavy-ion beams.

"DOE has a long interest in cancer therapy with protons and heavy ion beams because of the huge advantage over x-ray therapy," says Vetter. "An ion beam can penetrate deep and deposit most of its energy right in the tumor, with minimal damage to surrounding tissue. But there's a serious drawback. At present there's no way to get a quick measure of the actual dose or how it's distributed."

Ideally, one should be able to make images during treatment, showing exactly where the ion beam is depositing its energy in the tumor. Imaging methods exist, but they take too long: a common therapy uses carbon ions, which react with nuclei in the tissue to create radioactive carbon-11. When carbon-11 decays, it emits positrons and so can be detected by positron-emission tomography, or PET scans.

But carbon-11's half-life is more than 20 minutes, while the cancer treatment lasts only a few minutes. To collect enough data for an accurate dose measure and to find out where the beam actually ends up takes at least half an hourmuch too late to obtain an accurate picture of the beam before the activity is diffused or adjust the treatment while underway or stop it if necessary.

The ion beam excit
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Contact: Paul Preuss
paul_preuss@lbl.gov
510-486-6249
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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