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Antiprotons 4 times more effective than protons for cell irradiation

Geneva, 31 October 2006 -- A pioneering experiment at CERN with potential future application in cancer therapy has produced its first results. Started in 2003, ACE (Antiproton Cell Experiment) is the first investigation of the biological effects of antiprotons.

"We have taken the first step towards a novel treatment for cancer. The results show that antiprotons are four times more effective than protons at terminating live cells. Although it still has to be compared with other existing methods, it is a breakthrough in this area of investigation." says Michael Doser at CERN, one of the scientists collaborating on the experiment. ACE brings together a team of experts in the fields of physics, biology, and medicine from 10 institutes around the world.

Current particle beam therapy commonly uses protons to destroy tumour cells inside a patient. The ACE experiment directly compared the effectiveness of cell irradiation using protons and antiprotons. To simulate a cross-section of tissue inside a body, tubes were filled with hamster cells suspended in gelatine. Researchers sent a beam of protons or antiprotons with a range of 2 cm depth into one end of the tube, and evaluated the fraction of surviving cells after irradiation along the path of the beam.

The results showed that antiprotons were four times more effective than protons. When comparing a beam of antiprotons with a beam of protons that cause identical damage at the entrance to the target, the experiment found the damage to cells inflicted at the end of the beam path to be four times higher for antiprotons than for protons. Michael Holzscheiter, spokesperson of the ACE experiment, summarises: "To achieve the same level of damage to cells at the target area one needs four times fewer antiprotons than protons. This significantly reduces the damage to the cells along the entrance channel of the beam for antiprotons compared to protons. Due to the antiproton's unsurpassed ability to
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Contact: Michael Holzscheiter
michael.holzscheiter@cern.ch
505-983-7664
CERN
31-Oct-2006


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