Particle Therapy

Cancer Research Institute

The Particle Therapy Cancer Research Institute (PTCRi) was established at the Oxford Martin School in 2008. The grant from the School ended in 2012 but PTCRi continued to run as a standalone research organisation for many years afterwards.

The project

PTCRi was founded to allow cooperative work between pure particle physicists with other disciplines (radiation oncology, cancer medicine and medical (hospital) physics allied to radiation therapy). Its core aim was to study the clinical effectiveness of charged particle therapy (CPT) to treat cancer, and to promote its use in the UK and elsewhere on the basis of robust clinical evidence and analysis.

Radiotherapy has been a major component of treatment for cancer but has many limitations. One of these is the potential radiation damage to off-target tissue especially when the tumour is in or near sensitive organs, or used in vulnerable patient populations such as young children. Charged particle therapy also uses radiation to destroy cancer cells but, unlike radiotherapy, once the energy of the radiation reduces drastically after hitting the target tumour, the potential for damage to surrounding normal tissue is reduced.

Despite clear motivation for exploiting the benefits of charged particle therapy (CPT) over x-ray radiotherapy, there are few comprehensive reports of CPT efficacy and side effects and no formal clinical trials have been performed.

Research in PTCRi focused on building the case for cancer treatment using charged particles and looking at how to improve its efficacy and efficiency. As well as the academic publications and advances made through cross-disciplinary collaborations, the Institute had considerable influence in building up the medical case for a permanent radiobiology research centre at CERN. This would allow many countries worldwide to particiate in new ideas and create a single large consistent database for the study of radiation therapies. Such work would lead to faster, more effective and cheaper treatments of cancer through radiation therapies.

The Institute was led by Co-Directors:

  • Professor Ken Peach, Professor of Particle Physics
  • Professor Bleddyn Jones, Professor of Clinical Radiation Biology