Protons may destroy cancer cells faster and safer than radio-therapy


Russian scientists have successfully completed the experiments in destroying cancer cells with a proton beam and proved that this approach to the cancer treatment works faster and safer than radio-therapy. This statement was made by the Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Biophysics press-service on May 17, 2017. The results of the experiments were published in Biophysics Journal.

In the last ten years the possibility of using the proton therapy in cancer treatment is being widely discussed. Unlike electrons and gamma-rays, protons act more precise and less affect healthy tissues in treatment. This fact allows using protons in treatment of brain cancer, bone cancer, and so on, which are difficult to access during surgery.

The expensiveness is the main problem of this approach, because for such a treatment a particle accelerator is needed. The lack of information on how long should such treatment last, and how safe it is, is another problem.

The researchers from the cellular engineering laboratory led by Svetlana Zaichkina(Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Biophysics) tried to define the necessary duration of the proton therapy course, the duration of remission, the recurrence rate and the life expectancy of animals after the treatment.

By using the complex created by scientists from Physico-Technical Centre (Lebedev Physical Institute), the biologists irradiated with protons the mice, which had Ehrlich's carcinoma. They changed the number of sessions, duration of irradiation and beam power. After that the researchers observed the changes in the health status of mice. It turned out that the tumor growth slowed down in 5-6 times compared with the control group. At the same time the proton therapy was most effective in the case of irradiation of tumor without irradiation of surrounding tissues. The researchers also found out that the duration of the interval between two sessions doesn't affect the result of the treatment.

Nowadays, the proton therapy consists of several sessions, and that makes it much more expensive. The experiment showed that it could be enough to carry out only one or two sessions of irradiation. That fact will lower the costs of the therapy and will to treat patients with brain cancer and other inoperable tumors considered now as hopeless.

Now the research group lead by Svetlana Zaichkina is studying the medical abilities of a beam of accelerated carbon ions. Irradiation with carbon ions is another breakthrough direction in radio-therapy of cancer, which allows irradiating a tumor with high precision and effective.

Related information:
Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Biophysics of Russian Academy of Sciences ( is located in Pushchino. The Institute carries out fundamental and applied researches in the field of theoretical and experimental biophysics.
P.N. Lebedev Physical Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences ( is one of the leading Russian research institutes specializing in physics. LPI Physico-Technical Centre is located in Protvino, Moscow Region.


Last Modified: 2017/09/05