Research in the field of oncological hadron therapy is the focus of the memorandum of understanding signed between TIFPA (Trento Institute for Fundamental Physics and Applications, the national centre established by INFN, in collaboration with the University of Trento, FBK - Bruno Kessler Foundation and the Provincial Health Service Authority of Trento) and the Chinese centre SPHIC (Shanghai Proton and Heavy Ion Center). The agreement, recently signed in Shanghai by the Director of TIFPA, Marco Durante, and the President of SPHIC, thus marks the beginning of a close collaboration between Italy and China in this promising field of cancer therapy, which envisages the use of protons and heavy ions (hadrons) accelerated like bullets to hit and destroy cancer cells. The advantages of these “hadron bullets” reside in their high capacity to penetrate the human body, which makes them suitable to treat even deep tumours, and in the precision with which they can be aimed at the target, hitting almost exclusively diseased cells and sparing the surrounding healthy tissue. “The Shanghai centre is destined to be the first in the world in terms of the number of patients, and it will be there that the clinical benefit of ions in therapy will be tested,” explained Marco Durante. “For TIFPA this is an important collaboration that will allow us to transfer the most advanced research in medical physics and radiobiology to the clinic. Significant benefit will also be reaped by the Proton Therapy Centre in Trento, technologically very advanced and which requires high level partnerships. With this agreement, Italy is confirmed as one of the countries most engaged in hadron therapy research, thanks to the fruitful collaboration between physicists, doctors and biologists,” concluded Durante. The agreement with SPHIC regulates the cooperation in medical physics, biophysics and radiobiology and is open to any other activities of mutual interest. The agreement also allows the exchange of personnel between SPHIC and TIFPA for common training and experimental activities. Particular interest is directed to methods for the treatment of tumours in motion (such as that of the lung), and the combined therapeutic protocols for tumours of the liver and pancreas, two malignant tumours with high incidence in China. TIFPA researchers will also be able to study a biophysical model for the optimisation of dose regimens in the SPHIC laboratory. The Proton Therapy Centre of the Provincial Health Service Authority in Trento has already treated 16 patients and has an experimental room for conducting research in medical physics and radiation biophysics of great interest to the Chinese institute. SPHIC is a structure, implemented by SIEMENS, with four treatment rooms, using carbon ions and protons in cancer treatment. After the first pilot treatment in the summer of 2014 and approval by the Chinese health authorities, the centre was officially opened in April. SHPIC will begin with clinical protocols for various solid tumours and has the objective of treating over 1,000 patients a year. In addition, it has a laboratory for preclinical studies on animal models with protons and heavy ions, and for research in medical physics. In order to start the research activities, SPHIC has also signed memoranda of understanding, as well as with TIFPA, with the Helmholtz GSI centre (Darmstadt, Germany) and the Montefiore Medical Center - Einstein College of Medicine (New York, USA).



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