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Veterinary Medicine

New Frontiers: Making the case for bringing carbon ion radiation therapy to American cancer patients

April 4, 2012

Join us April 26-27 for New Frontiers in Cancer Treatment: A Focus on Photon and Carbon Ion Radiation Therapy. The symposium, hosted by CSU and the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, will be held in Fort Collins at the Hilton Hotel.

A doctor's white coat There are three in Japan, one in China and one in Germany. In the next five years, Japan will add two more, China will add two more, Italy had just completed construction on one, two are under construction in Germany, and one is under construction in Austria. Several more are in the planning stages. But there are none in the United States nor does anyone have any plans to build one.

These are not cultural centers, athletic facilities, high-speed trains or underground nuclear storage sites. These are innovative cancer treatment centers that use beams of ions to treat some of the deadliest cancers known to humankind, with surprisingly good outcomes and minimal damage to surrounding tissues. Clinical cases are showing that, for certain cancers, the most effective therapy does not use X-rays or gamma rays but ion beams, including heavier ions such as carbon. The irony is that this technology was developed in the United States, but the world’s first dedicated carbon-ion medical facility was built in Chiba, Japan, and began clinical trials in 1994.

Now, CSU, in partnership with Japan’s National Institute of Radiological Sciences, is hoping to help bring carbon ion therapy back to the United States, as well as facilitate the availability of carbon ion medical facilities abroad to treat American patients.

Symposium goal to bring ion radiation therapy to US

In April, CSU will host “New Frontiers in Cancer Treatment: A Focus on Photon and Carbon Ion Radiation Therapy,” a symposium to bring the latest information and research on photon and carbon ion radiation therapy to oncologists, cancer researchers, medical physicists, health and medical physics graduate students, radiation researchers, and others interested in these innovative cancer therapies.

“Increased biological effect is one of the most attractive reasons for using carbon ions because many types of tumors, including sarcomas, adenocarcinoma, and osteosarcoma, are considered to be resistant to conventional radiotherapy,” said Dr. Hirohiko Tsujii, executive director of NIRS, where more than 6,000 patients have been treated and shown clinical results confirming the efficacy of carbon ion therapy. “The second attractive point in the clinical situation is shortness of the treatment. We think we can complete total treatment in shortest possible time among the many other modalities in the world.

“For example, when we are treating early stage lung cancer, a very small one, or sometimes even larger ones, we can treat in one day. Even for prostate cancer, which usually 30-40 times treatment, we use 16 fractions or even moving to use 12 fractions, very short treatment.”

The two-day symposium, April 26-27, will feature presentations from CSU’s international collaborators at NIRS, as well as guest speakers from Texas A&M, the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, The Jackson Laboratories, Duke University, and others. Topics will include reviews of treatment strategies for specific cancers and outcomes using traditional photon radiotherapy and heavy ion radiotherapy including: head and neck cancers; bone and soft tissue tumors; and lung, prostate, rectal and pancreatic cancers. The first day of the symposium will focus on human radiation therapy and the second will provide presentations on basic and translational radiation oncology research.

CSU developing the world's first integrated program

“Colorado State University is in the process of developing the world’s first integrated cancer therapy training, research, and patient care program focused on all three classes of effective cancer radiotherapy modalities – traditional photon, light ion (proton) and heavy ion (carbon) radiation,” said Dr. Jac Nickoloff, Head of the Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences. “The program will bring together an international team of leading educators, scientists, and clinicians to train the next generation of medical physics practitioners in the latest radiation oncology technologies, drive research programs to further enhance cancer therapy with radiation alone and augmented with drug therapy, and improve access to these lifesaving therapies to patients worldwide.

“We are very excited to host the New Frontiers symposium and look forward to developing new opportunities for collaboration and the advancement of cancer treatment through the ideas and innovations that will be presented here.”

Dr. Tsujii and his colleague, Dr. Tadashi Kamada, would like to see this technology available for patients in the United States. In addition to working with Colorado State University, NIRS is exploring working partnerships with the University of California, Berkeley (home of the early work in ion beam therapy and nuclear medicine), the Mayo Clinic, and the National Cancer Institute. For Dr. Kamada, the reason is clear as to why carbon ion therapy should come back to the United States

“For me, the results,” said Dr. Kamada, who is Director of the Research Center for Charged Particle Therapy at NIRS. “Carbon results are so good. Why not open those good results to the world? It’s a pity there is no carbon facility in the United States.”

The College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at CSU established partnerships with NIRS and Gifu University’s School of Medicine in 2008, based on relationships established in the previous years with faculty members in the Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences. Since then, the partnerships have resulted in student exchanges, joint faculty appointments, an expansion of research projects (particularly in the wake of the Japan tsunami and nuclear crisis in 2011), and the cooperative planned procurement of a new data management system for maintaining cancer records.

Contact: Dell Rae Moellenberg
Phone: (970) 491-6009