Boron carbide bests graphite for proton therapy

Published in MPW, 3 Aug 2016

Scientists in Switzerland have found that boron carbide transmits nearly one-third more protons in the right direction than graphite when used as a degrader for proton therapy. The result suggests that boron carbide could reduce treatment times, with particular benefits for those undergoing eye treatments (Phys. Med. Biol. 61 N337).

Proton therapy is similar to conventional radiotherapy in that it is used to destroy tumours, but in principle has a finite range that spares surrounding healthy tissue. A cyclotron can be used to generate the protons, but these protons will always have the same initial energy and, if left unchecked, can pass through the body having little effect at all. For that reason the beamline’s operators must insert a degrader in the path of the protons; in general, the thicker the degrader, the less the protons’ penetration depth in the body. […]

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