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26 Apr 2021

Real-Time MRI Imaging in Proton Therapy – how far away are we?

Adam Randall

The idea of using real-time MRI scans to guide a proton beam while a patient undergoes proton therapy is one which might sound like a dream come true to some imaging departments. Such technology would enable a significant increase in the quality of treatment provided – not to mention all the time which could be saved. But to many it might seem as though it were just that: a dream. However, new developments from OncoRay in Dresden may suggest otherwise. 

As reported in Physics World, OncoRay’s new research will allow for real-time MRI scanning with Proton Therapy. In 2018, this was proven as a technical feasibility and now what was once a theory is beginning to have real world implementations. 

The equipment needed to accurately control both a proton beam and an MRI scanner simultaneously was considered a practical impossibility by many industry professionals. However, Aswin Hoffmann from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden Rossendorf (HZDR) Institute of Radioncology (OncoRay) and his team have been working to integrate proton therapy and MRI technology for years and now they are preparing their first whole-body prototype. This proton therapy system will have the ability to track moving tumors in real-time with MRI, allowing a proton beam to be directed with accuracy. Indeed, even the range of the beam can be visualised using the MRI.  

This innovative technology would enable real-time, high-contrast imaging of the organs in the thorax, abdomen, and pelvis. The scanner can also rotate around the patient, relative to the proton beam, ensuring precision in the targeting of cancerous tumors. The rotation also enables the study of any dosimetric and biological beam effects of the MRI magnetic fields running perpendicular and parallel to the proton beam. It’s exciting to consider the positive outcomes for patients which may arise if this new development is successful. 

Aswin’s team are working towards incorporating the MRI system into a clinical-grade, actively scanned proton beamline by the summer of 2022. 

For updates on all the latest news and innovations in neurology just like this, register to attend Neuro Convention on the 15th and 16th of September. We have a growing community of neurologists and want to provide a platform through which everybody has the opportunity to share their insights. Read about all our efforts to create a safe environment for our events this year. 

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