The Centre for Medical Radiation Physics (CMRP) at the University of Wollongong, headed by Distinguished Professor Anatoly Rozenfeld, are doing really big things: some at an extremely minute scale.
The CMRP team, comprising over 110 researchers across five research themes, are working together to develop new radiation technologies and instrumentation for cancer treatment and space medicine. In particular, the CMRP focuses on quality assurance for radiation therapy including innovative radiation dosimetry instrumentation, innovative technologies for radiation treatment of cancer including MRI guided radiation therapy (MRI Linac), particle therapy (Proton and heavy ion therapy), synchrotron Microbeam Radiation Therapy (MRT), Diffused Alpha Radiation Therapy (DART) and treatment improvement using nano-particles for dose enhancement. Advanced modelling of radiation effects using Monte Carlo radiation transport codes is another highlight of CMRP research.
With approximately 45 peer-reviewed research papers published in key journals each year and staff receiving world-wide recognition for best papers, best presentations and winning of prestigious travel grants, it is easy to see why CMRP are world-leaders in the field of medical radiation physics.
We look at four of their latest projects:
Developed by researchers at CMRP, MOSkin is the world’s most advanced and cost-effective medical radiation sensor technology.
Because radiation has the potential to damage organs and surrounding tissue, a tool was needed which could monitor the amount of radiation the skin receives during treatment without affecting the upstream radiation beam properties, and therefore, reducing the risk of side-effects.
Taking over 10 years to develop and with clinical trials across Australia, Europe, Brazil and Malaysia, MOSkin has proved to be suitable for measuring radiation wirelessly and in real-time. It gives clinicians the confidence in accurate treatment of cancer whilst minimising damage to surrounding healthy tissue.
MOSkin has now been commercialised by Electrogenics Laboratories http://electrogenicslabs.com/ and Professor Rozenfeld, with his outstanding team, hopes it will soon go into mass production.
Microdosimetry for particle therapy and space
Ten years in the making, “mushroom” is a patented microdosimeter which looks to improve astronaut safety during space missions. The sensors work by modelling radiation ionizing energy deposited in biological cells. This allows better prediction of space radiation risks to astronauts.
Mushroom has received international recognition and has become a gold standard in solid state microdosimetry. Dr Thuy Linh Tran, together with the entire microdosimetry team, was awarded the Farrington Daniels Award by the American Associations Physicist in Medicine (AAPM) for best therapy physics paper published in Medical Physics during 2018. The technology has received funding from the European Space Agency and will be implemented in upcoming space missions.
Microbeam Radiation Therapy (MRT) is a new kind of radiation treatment for cancer patients.
Professor Rozenfeld, describes the therapy as “utilising micro-sized rays of extremely intensive radiation” which provide a higher and more effective therapeutic ratio than traditional radiation therapy while delivering treatment within milliseconds. He explains that MRT is suitable for brain cancer, especially in children, due to the minimal effect on normal brain tissue.
Prof Michael Lerch, Dr Moeava Tehei and Associate Professor Stephanie Corde-Tehei lead the MRT CMRP research program at Australian Synchrotron which includes complex biophysics research, radiobiology, radiation dosimetry instrumentation and radiation modelling with Monte Carlo. The MRT program and its leaders are internationally recognised with their research contributing to understanding the phenomena and practical implementation of new high dose rate FLASH therapy.
CMRP has also developed new semiconductor dosimeters used in MRT which measure (in real time) the absorbed dose of radiation within intensive microbeams. The experimental program led by Associate Professor Marco Petasecca at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) MRT facility uses the silicon dosimeters developed at CMRP to measure the effect of cardio-synchronous brain motion on dose distribution during microbeam radiation therapy.
It is anticipated that the new dosimeters will be used in MRT clinical quality assurance and will provide an inexpensive and simple dosimetry tool for clinicians.
Monte Carlo Code GEANT 4
Despite its name, the Monte Carlo Code has nothing to do with Monaco’s high-rolling city, made popular by the rich and famous. In fact, the Monte Carlo Code is a simulation software which allows the user to model the radiation transport of charged particles in matter instead of carrying out expensive experiments on radiation beams .
The team at CMRP, headed by Associate Professor Susanna Guatelli, is coordinating a mammoth scientific endeavour which includes the contribution of researchers from 26 research institutes/universities world-wide. The team has developed a computer platform which measures the accuracy of the Monte Carlo Code GEANT4 in medical physics applications.
GEANT4 is the most used Monte Carlo Code in the world and describes the way particles interact with matter. Its use in medical physics is to verify Clinical Treatment Planning Systems as well as to help develop technology for radiotherapy, imaging and nuclear medicine. Prof. Rozenfeld emphasised the invaluable contribution of CMRP researcher, Dr David Bolst’s to the project.
Many other projects at CMRP are making strong contributions to patient health such as the MRI –Linac dosimetry program and its clinical implementation led by Senior Professor Peter Metcalfe with a strong contribution from Dr Brad Oborn; the clinical implementation of detectors for medical Linac and patient specific QA developed at CMRP with strong contributions by Dr Enbang Li, Dr Dean Cutajar, Dr Saree Alnaghy and Dr Giordano Biasi, and clinical advice from Professor Tomas Kron.
The researchers at CMRP work tirelessly. They work tirelessly because they have a belief that they can make a difference not just to clinicians but ultimately to the patients themselves.
They are proof that big things can happen when you look into the tiniest of details.