The radiotherapy research team at Ingham Institute is one of only three research teams in the world to develop a new technological concept and design to improve targeted radiotherapy.
The technology, called MRI-Linac, combines an MRI magnet with a Linac Accelerator (a radiation cancer treatment machine) to improve the accuracy and precision of radiotherapy treatment for cancer.
Radiotherapy is a mode of cancer treatment that uses a Linear Accelerator to produce X-rays that kill or damage tumours to stop them from growing. However, in doing this, the radiation process may also damage normal tissue in the way of the radiation beam during the treatment. Improving the accuracy of treatment will result in better treatment outcomes and fewer side effects for cancer patients.
Until now the MRI and the Linac have worked separately. By joining them together as the MRI-Linac, the Ingham Institute has a system that enables a real-time view of tumours that stretches way beyond basic anatomy, including the chemical structure of tumours and normal tissues. The unique design of the system gives Ingham Institute scientists and cancer researchers the ability to position the treatment or radiation beam in two different arrangements which will improve accuracy further.
“Radiation treatments for cancer must take into account changes that can occur to the location and shape of tumours, which move as a result of breathing, swallowing and other normal body changes. This is where the strength of the MRI-Linac system comes into play, as it is the only system that will enable us to target the tumour with the radiation beam much more accurately in real-time and have control over the radiation dose,” said Associate Professor Gary Liney, Senior MRI Physicist at the Ingham Institute.
In 2014, the Australian Cancer Research Foundation provided a grant of AUD 2.5 million for the creation of The ACRF Image-X Institute at the Ingham Institute. The research is in its early days and the clinical applications of the new treatment are 5-10 years away.