A new cancer treatment involving flash technology is being developed in Europe with the prospect of increased effectiveness and fewer side effects for cancer patients.
The FLASH radiotherapy device is based on technology from the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN); it reduces the period of radiation to a few milliseconds. The device is expected to be ready in two years; clinical trials are planned for 2025. In 2020, a pilot project at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois (CHUV) in Lausanne, Switzerland, utilized a prototype called FLASHKNiFE, which had been created by THERYQ (ALCEN Group). The new device will be stored in a special new bunker at CHUV.
“A clinical FLASH facility has been developed, with which large, deep-seated tumors are treated using high-energy electrons. The facility is based on accelerator technology developed for CLIC (Compact Linear Collider) to create a high performance and compact facility that can easily fit on a typical hospital campus,” stated Walter Wuensch, project leader at CERN, according to PRNewswire.
The FLASH facility is expected to treat tumors up to roughly eight inches deep and can fit in most hospitals. The devices based on CERN’s electron accelerator technology will cost less than current proton-based therapy facilities.
“FLASH technology represents real hope for increasing the potential for curing cancers with radiation therapy, and the current stage will enable first crucial clinical developments in this area,” enthused Professor Jean Bourhis, Head of the Department of Radiation Oncology at CHUV.
CHUV, one of five Swiss university hospitals, treated 51,205 hospitalized patients in 2021. THERYQ specializes in particle accelerators and radiotherapy systems.
Typical radiation therapy involves using X-rays or protons to bombard the body with a linear accelerator. A different kind of cancer therapy, called brachytherapy, uses radiation placed inside the body. “More than half of all people with cancer receive radiation therapy as part of their cancer treatment,” the Mayo Clinic states, adding that side effects from radiation therapy can include hair loss, fatigue, a change in the way food tastes, difficulty swallowing, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
General treatment with external beam radiation is performed on an outpatient basis five days a week when it is utilized.
Radiation therapy works by making breaks in the DNA inside cells, thus barring cancer cells from growing and dividing. Normal cells recover more quickly. Normally cancer cells grow and divide more quickly than normal cells.