Professor Dr Marco Durante, GSI, Director of the Biophysics Department and Technical University of Darmstadt, Darmstadt, Germany
Abstract: The study of biological effects of heavy ions is attracting increasing interest in the scientific community for two main reasons. First, heavy charged particles can be used to treat solid cancers replacing conventional X-rays. Exciting clinical results are flowing from Japan and Germany, and several new hadron therapy centres are indeed under construction in Asia and Europe. Second, heavy nuclei at high energy represent a major risk for safe human exploration of the Solar system, because they provide a substantial fraction of the equivalent dose absorbed by astronauts in space. Therefore, basic studies on the biological effects of heavy ions are urgently needed to tackle these two topics. In Europe, a large research activity is carried out at the GSI in Darsmstadt, where the SIS accelerator can produce heavy ions up to energies of 2 GeV/n, and the future FAIR facility now under construction will push the limit to 45 GeV/n. GSI has pioneered heavy ion therapy in Europe, and is now the main centre for space radiation research, supported by the European Space Agency (ESA). Special technological achievements, such as raster scanning and the microbeam (see figure above) are only available at GSI. The current research programs at GSI in the field of clinical radiobiology and space radiation protection will be presented.