November, 21th 2014: The visit to the Centre de Protontherapie in Orsay in France.

The Centre of Protontherapy in Orsay associated with Institut Curie is one of the very few places in Europe and generally in the world where treatment of cancers is based on the utilization of protons, which provides a different dose deposition profile to standard radiotherapy techniques due to the high dose deposited in the ‘Bragg Peak’. This is an innovative and still strongly experimental method of treatment, although the results are very promising and result in the cure of many eye and brain tumors. The visit was composed of two main parts: an introductory lecture given by an oncologist and medical physicist working in the Centre and a visit to the treatment rooms.

The centre comprises three treatment rooms. The first is dedicated to ophthalmological and intra-cranial treatments, for which the patient is seated. The second is used only for intra-cranial treatments where the patient is lying down or seated. For both of these rooms the beam line is stationary, however the latest and most exciting addition to the centre includes a gantry – a huge device used to bend the beamline direction in order to treat intra-cranial tumors and/or tumors located in other parts of the body, moving both the beam and the patient in order to best attack the tumor.

This experience gave us an opportunity to see the challenges faced in a clinical setting in order to cure a cancer, and the importance of collective cooperation between medical teams, engineers and medical physicists.