Neutron Research To Help In Treatment Of Cancer Patients

ATHENS, Ohio -- Research done at Ohio University will be used to help treat cancer patients with an experimental therapy that could replace traditional treatments for cancer, such as chemotherapy, gamma radiation and surgery.

The treatment, called boron neutron capture therapy, kills cancer tumors by breaking them up with neutrons, uncharged elementary particles found in the nuclei of atoms. Although the concept of neutron therapy isn't new, scientists so far haven't been successful in measuring the energy of neutrons with sufficient accuracy.

Work at Ohio University is solving that problem. Scientists here are producing neutrons and making precise measurements of their direction and speed in the university's Edwards Accelerator Lab -- one of only a handful of physics labs in the country capable of this kind of research.

The neutron measurements done in the lab will be used by Harvard Medical School physicians and Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists to treat cancer patients in medical experiments beginning in April, says Steven Grimes, Ohio University professor of physics and astronomy and coordinator of the neutron measurement project.

"We're working in this collaborative effort with MIT and Harvard because we've got the technology to do this research and they've got the patients for the medical research," says Grimes, whose research on neutron measurements was published recently in the journal Nuclear Science and Engineering.

With current medical technology, most cancer patients are treated one of three ways: surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. But not all treatments are feasible in every situation, Grimes says.

Chemotherapy usually causes side effects, surgery isn't always viable and radiation often kills healthy tissue along with the cancerous tumor.

Researchers believe boron neutron capture therapy has few side effects. It is similar to traditional radia

Contact: Melissa Rake
Ohio University

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