How to accurately kill cancer cells, vacuum technology is essential

Cancer is the nightmare of many people, and it is also the object that the whole society strives to conquer.

According to the “Global Cancer Report” (2018 edition) released by the World Health Organization, in 2018 alone, there were 18.1 million new cancer cases and 9.6 million deaths worldwide, accounting for nearly one-sixth of global deaths.

But at the same time, human research on anti-cancer has never stopped. In recent years, ion beam therapy has attracted special attention through the continuous search for fast, effective, and targeted cancer treatments. Ion beam therapy provides a highly precise and efficient form of radiation that can be used to treat cancerous tumors while keeping the painful side effects of conventional radiation therapy procedures to a minimum. So, in order for the ion beam to fully play its role in fighting cancer tumors and provide patients with precise and efficient treatment, a reliable and powerful vacuum solution will play a decisive role.

Precisely kill cancer cells, ion beam therapy solves technical problems

In practice for many years, conventional radiation therapy for the successful treatment of tumors has been to irradiate the tumor with X-rays or gamma radiation. However, some tumors are completely insensitive to this type of radiation, or have little or no sensitivity, especially when the tumor is deep in the body or if there is radiosensitive tissue near the tumor, and conventional radiation therapy is limited: Technically, it is impossible to Under the premise of not damaging the surrounding tissue, the tumor is irradiated with a high enough dose, and then it is impossible to achieve the effect and purpose of cancer tumor treatment.

The ion beam therapy can completely solve this technical problem. When ions are given high energy by means of particle accelerators, they reach more than three-quarters of the speed of light. At the last meter attached to the patient, the beam is compressed to a width of just a few millimeters with minimal lateral scatter and sharp boundaries. Due to the high velocity and mass of the ions, they can have a great depth of movement in the tissue, and even tumors located deep in the body can be irradiated precisely with a high enough dose. The healthy tissue surrounding the tumor is thus optimally protected from ion beam radiation. For tissue that is in the angle of the treatment beam, the ions release energy into the tissue in one go at the end of the path, before stopping, and then the dose drops sharply to avoid affecting the tissue behind the tumor.

How to accurately kill cancer cells, vacuum technology is essential

Figure 1: MIT’s treatment table with a computerized robot (Source: Marburg Center for Ion Beam Therapy)

As a new radiotherapy method, ion beam therapy currently includes proton heavy ion therapy and boron neutron capture therapy (BNCT):

Proton heavy ion therapy – once known as “the ultimate nemesis of cancer”, is the world’s most advanced and relatively expensive radiotherapy technology. Tumors are treated by accelerating hydrogen nuclei (protons) or carbon ions (heavy ions) to 70% the speed of light. This highly precise and very effective form of radiation can be used to treat cancerous tumors and keep the painful side effects of conventional radiation therapy to a minimum.

· Boron neutron capture therapy – the latest cutting-edge cancer treatment method in the world. It is a secondary, targeted, and cell-level precise radiotherapy combined with radiation and drugs. A type of radiotherapy that destroys cancer cells with heavy ions. It has little damage to surrounding cells and tissues, and can be tried for invasive, multiple, recurrent, radiation-resistant, inoperable cancers, and cancers that are not suitable for radiation therapy.

Create an ultra-high vacuum environment, Pfeiffer’s complete solution supports cancer treatment

Regardless of the type of ion beam therapy, the prerequisite is a high-purity vacuum that produces the ion beam.

An ion beam can only be generated and transported at the required mass in a space with few molecules, such as an ultra-high vacuum, and if the ion beam comes into contact with atmospheric gas particles on its way, it loses energy and is deflected, The presence of even a very small amount of gas in the accelerator system can compromise the function and quality of the ion beam, thereby affecting treatment. Therefore, to accelerate the beam to very high velocities and be directed to the patient without any loss, the ion beam must be directed and beamed in a vacuum, from the ion source at the start of the machine all the way to the patient location At the front exit window, the entire path of the ion beam through the machine needs to be done in vacuum.

Due to the stringent requirements for high vacuum environments, vacuum pumps used to create vacuum environments must be reliable, powerful and clean. Since ion beam therapy machines are used 24 hours a day for treatment and research, the vacuum system naturally needs to be kept running 24 hours a day all year round. Therefore, modular design and long service life are also important requirements for vacuum equipment. It can be said that vacuum solutions play an essential role in the process of ion beam treatment of cancer tumors.

Fig. 2: Beam guidance system to the 45° irradiation station with solutions from Pfeiffer Vacuum (Source: Marburg Center for Ion Beam Therapy)

In view of such comprehensive requirements, Pfeiffer Vacuum has created the most reliable and high-quality vacuum solutions for ion beam therapy in a very targeted manner, and has been fully used at the Ion Beam Therapy Center (MIT) in Marburg, Germany. The Ion Beam Therapy Center in Marburg is the third European ion beam therapy system and, like the first system in Heidelberg, which went into operation in 2009, relies on Pfeiffer Vacuum Solutions to equip its ion beam therapy machines with a vacuum system. In the vacuum solutions of Pfeiffer Vacuum, including turbomolecular pumps, diaphragm pumps, mass spectrometers, vacuum gauges, and a variety of vacuum accessories.

Diaphragm Pumps – At MIT, diaphragm pumps are used as backing pumps for turbomolecular pumps. Diaphragm pumps from Pfeiffer Vacuum are very compact and ideal for integration into systems. Its advantages lie in an absolutely dry oil-free vacuum, long diaphragm life, low vibration and noise, high operational reliability, easy maintenance due to simple replacement of membranes and valves, worldwide availability due to the use of dual voltage motors or DC drives use.

· Turbomolecular Pumps – Turbomolecular pumps generate the ultra-high vacuum conditions required for MIT. With its high performance and reliability as well as extreme economy and efficiency, it is the best solution for the requirements of ion beam machines. Its advantages include proven bearing system for high reliability, design, technical components and differences in pump speed classes for flexibility, highly developed pump design for high compression performance and efficiency, low energy consumption, very long maintenance interval period.

Mass Spectrometer – MIT uses Pfeiffer Vacuum’s PrismaPro mass spectrometer for residual gas analysis in a vacuum system. PrismaPro combines high sensitivity, stability and intelligent processing power to be the best solution. Its advantages lie in the modular design for optimum adaptation, compact dimensions and high performance, easy system integration via various interfaces, networking via Ethernet, high measurement speed, stability and resolution.

Vacuum Gauge – Pfeiffer Vacuum ActiveLine and DigiLine’s high-precision vacuum gauges help MIT’s ion beam therapy systems achieve pitch analog and digital outputs. This vacuum gauge is perfectly suited to the requirements of ion beam systems and offers advantages such as minimal magnetic stray fields, easy integration, durability and easy maintenance.

· Service from Pfeiffer Vacuum – At MIT, maintenance of all vacuum equipment is performed by service specialists from Pfeiffer Vacuum. A wide range of service portfolios from which customers can choose the required modules, including fast, high-quality global service, user and product training, original Pfeiffer Vacuum equipment and tools, including components and systems by Pfeiffer Vacuum’s service engineers Comprehensive on-site services including commissioning, overhaul, maintenance, repair, leak detection and gas analysis, care and maintenance at Pfeiffer Service Centers, product replacement, and custom service agreements to meet customer needs, etc.

Figure 3: Pfeiffer Vacuum products used in ion beam therapy equipment

From left to right: diaphragm pump, turbo molecular pump, mass spectrometer, vacuum gauge

The entire vacuum system can be precisely adjusted according to the specific requirements of the ion beam machine, which truly realizes the correct and reliable operation of high-quality products even in the case of high frequency of use, so as to meet the operation requirements of the ion beam machine.

The practical application of ion therapy to help the industrialization development of domestic equipment with independent property rights

In addition to the successful application of the Marburg Ion Beam Therapy Center (MIT), Pfeiffer Vacuum’s vacuum solutions have also been applied in clinical treatment in many proton and heavy ion hospitals in China. As early as 2008, Shanghai Proton and Heavy Ion Hospital introduced a commercial proton/heavy ion accelerator from Siemens, which was officially put into use in May 2015. So far, the treatment system has treated about 2,000 tumor patients.

What’s more worth mentioning is that my country’s first heavy ion therapy system with independent intellectual property rights was installed in Wuwei Cancer Hospital of Gansu Province in June this year and officially put into clinical treatment. According to public data, as of mid-July, more than 2,000 cancer patients from all over the country have gone to Wuwei to make an appointment for treatment. Compared with the internationally popular heavy ion therapy system with linear accelerator as the injector and synchrotron as the main accelerator, Wuwei heavy ion therapy system adopts the technical route of combining cyclotron injection and synchrotron main acceleration, charge stripping injection, compact synchronization The unique design of accelerator, multi-treatment mode and personalized treatment room layout breaks through the patent barriers of foreign products, improves cost performance, reduces operation and maintenance costs, achieves zero breakthrough in domestic heavy ion treatment equipment, and fills the gap for domestic independent research and development. Gaps in heavy ion therapy systems and clinical application capabilities.

Now the heavy ion therapy equipment with independent intellectual property rights in China has entered the stage of industrialization, and the market demand and prospects are huge. As an important part of heavy ion therapy equipment, vacuum system covers medium and high vacuum ranges, providing important basic conditions for the operation of the equipment. As a supplier of vacuum technology solutions, Pfeiffer Vacuum brings foreign advanced solutions to the Chinese market, helping the independent research and development and industrialization of heavy ion therapy equipment in China.

concluding remarks

Conquering various diseases, including cancer, is the direction that human beings have been actively working towards.Pfeiffer Vacuum provides a comprehensive range of products to support ion beam therapy for cancer tumors, and will continue to strive for innovation as the quality of treatment technology improves and the pace of innovation accelerates, through continuous optimization

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