Heidelberg Ion Therapy Centre (HIT) opens
A new cancer therapy facility developed at the GSI Centre for Heavy Ion Research has begun routine operations. Ion beam therapy is precise, effective and gentle. It offers better chances of a cure, shorter treatment cycles and fewer side effects. The ion beams penetrate the body and exert their full impact deep in the tissue, where they can precisely hit pinhead-sized tumour clusters. To reach the tumour, the ions are accelerated to about three quarters the speed of light, or almost 1 billion km/h. The ion beams are steered with millimetre accuracy. The surrounding healthy tissue remains mostly unaffected, which makes the method ideal for treating deep-seated tumours close to vital organs. Before treating the first patient, GSI scientists spent decades doing basic research on the radiobiological effects of ions and on developing a technique to target the tumour precisely and safely. "Initially, it was thought impossible. We succeeded thanks to the collaboration between various disciplines," says Gerhard Kraft, initiator and pioneer of ion beam therapy. Approximately 1,300 patients can be treated at HIT each year. Since 1997, 440 patients have been treated with carbon ion beams at the GSI. Clinical studies record a cure rate of up to 90%. At the heart of HIT lies an accelerator built for therapeutic use and adapted to medical routine operation. The three treatment areas at HIT are located next to the accelerators, two of which advance the GSI technology. The third area features a rotating ion beam guidance system with which the beam can be fired at the patient's tumour from any angle, thus vastly enhancing the treatment options. HIT is operated by the University Hospital Heidelberg, where a special building is home to the new facility. With the exception of Japan, Germany is the only country to offer such a unique cancer treatment. Under a licence agreement between the GSI and Siemens AG, two more facilities modelled on HIT are under construction in Marburg and Kiel.
Contact: GSI Helmholz Centre for Heavy Ion Research, Dr. Ingo Peter firstname.lastname@example.org
More information: www.gsi.de