Particle therapy project launches

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The Rhön-Klinikum and Siemens Medical Solutions have launched a project to build and operate a particle therapy facility to fight difficult to treat tumours.

The companies expect construction to begin in the summer of 2007. Rhön-Klinikum is investing more than €100m in the facility, which is being built in Marburg, Germany, and will be operated in close cooperation with the Giessen-Marburg University Hospital.

Particle therapy is an extremely precise and biologically effective procedure for fighting cancer. Certain tumours that were previously difficult or impossible to treat due to their location or proximity to vital organs can now be treated using this technology.

The contract covers the construction and technical operation of the particle therapy facility, including maintenance. This project represents the third facility worldwide that specializes in the treatment of tumours using protons and heavy ions. Giessen/Marburg University Hospital will conduct studies to scientifically monitor particle therapy at this facility. The four treatment rooms are expected to handle more than 2,000 patients annually.

Particle therapy facilitates extremely precise and effective cancer treatments. In clinical application, protons or carbon ions are brought up to very high speeds using an accelerator and then applied to tumours, destroying the tumour cells.

Thanks to the range of coverage that can be accurately calculated and a control system with millimetre accuracy, the target areas can be irradiated without impacting the surrounding tissue. An inpatient hospital stay for this treatment is required only in exceptional cases because virtually no side effects have been noted to date.

Particle therapy can treat some tumours that could not previously be treated or were difficult to treat. As a result, the chances of curing some cancers – for example, malignant tumours originating in the cartilage at the base of the skull – have increased to more than 90 per cent.