Dr. Christian Richter, head of the group "High Precision Radiotherapy", received the Emil Salzer Award for his research work on two essential technologies that contribute to improve the precision of particle radiotherapy in clinical applications. The research work on these two topics resulted in the world's first application of the technologies in patient treatments.
(I) Improvement of range prediction by using dual-energy computed tomography (Dual Energy CT, DECT),
(II) Clinical implementation of range verification by means of prompt gamma radiation.
Dual-energy computed tomography for radiation planning in proton therapy serves as a very accurate imaging method that provides more information about human tissue composition than the current standard method and thus makes a much more accurate calculation of proton range possible. In cooperation with the DKFZ, a DECT-based calculation method was developed and extensively validated. With this approach, the range uncertainty in deep-seated tumours is improved by approx. 25% - meaning that significantly less normal tissue has to be irradiated. In addition, the DECT method also takes variability in tissue composition into account, thus enabling more patient-specific treatment planning.
The measurement of the proton range in the patient, the so-called in vivo range verification, is an important and promising method for reducing the range uncertainties - especially due to the possibility of immediately recognition of deviations from the intended irradiation, e.g. due to anatomical changes or deviations in the patient positioning. The safest and most direct method of knowing the patient's range is to measure it. Although the protons themselves do not penetrate to the outside, the nuclear interactions of the protons with the patient's tissue result in prompt gamma radiation. Since this is released practically instantaneously (promptly), the spatial distribution of the prompt gamma radiation can be used to obtain the range information in real time, which enables immediate intervention.
The Emil Salzer Award is endowed with 5,000 euros and is awarded by the DKFZ on behalf of the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts.