The world's largest particle physics laboratory has not only achieved historic milestones such as discovering the "God particle", but has also put all its knowledge and technology at the service of the fight against cancer.
Experts from the European Centre for Nuclear Research, better known as CERN (located in Geneva), the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois (CHUV), and THERYQ (ALCEN group) have signed an agreement for the development of a revolutionary FLASH radiotherapy device that will use very high energy electrons (VHEE) to treat cancers resistant to conventional treatments, which currently account for one third of all cancers.
The device is the first of its kind and will use very high energy electron beams of 100-200 MeV. The treatment was initially tested on shallow tumours, less than three centimetres from the skin, in the Flasknife programme. However, experts have now succeeded in a second phase called Flashdeep to increase the depth to 20 centimetres, which would allow virtually all solid tumours to be reached.
Its compact size allows it to be used in a hospital setting. In addition to the health benefits for patients, as this new cancer treatment will lower the human body's exposure to radiation to just a few milliseconds, meaning fewer side effects, it also has the potential to lower the cost of treatment.
It is expected to be operational within two years, with the first clinical trials planned for 2025.
The equipment will be developed by CERN, manufactured by the company THERYQ, part of the French industrial consortium ALCEN, and will be installed in a special bunker located at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois (Lausanne), where the treatment will be carried out.
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