Greece has rejected a 100-million-euro investment to gain access to the latest technology that destroys cancer cells without affecting neighboring tissues. The new Proton Particle Accelerator developed by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) has a small size and light weight meaning that is can be set up in hospitals to produce radioactive isotopes for medical imaging and destroy targeted cancer cells without affecting neighboring tissues. The investment allows the exclusive installation and access to know-how of the innovative Tumor Radiation Unit to the country that has allocated the funds.
The Greek rejection was revealed by Evangelos Gazis, Professor for Particle Physics at the University of Athens and one of the dozens of Greek researchers working for CERN.
Speaking to Skai TV, Gazis said that Greece declined to claim the acquisition of the cancer treatment technology despite the fact the the 100-million -euro investment could be depreciated within five to six years, according to the business plan drawn up by Greek Research Center Dimokritos, the National Polytechnic University and the Medical School of the University of Thessaly.
According to Prof. Gazis, in October 2017, Greece declined active member participation in the CERN project “South Eastern Europe International Institute for Sustainable Technologies (SEEIIST),” and accepted only observer status.
On CERN’s SEEIIST website we read:
“On 25 October last year at a meeting at CERN, ministers of science or their representatives from countries in the region signed a Declaration of Intent (DOI) to establish a South-East Europe International Institute for Sustainable Technologies (SEEIIST) with the above objectives. The initial signatories were Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Kosovo*, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia. Croatia agreed in principle, while Greece participated as an observer.”
The aims of the SEEIIST are:
- a fourth-generation synchrotron light source that would offer users intense beams from infrared to X-ray wavelengths (X-FEL – Free Electron Laser)
- a state-of-the-art patient treatment facility for cancer using protons and heavy ions, also with a strong biomedical research programme.
Two big world-class research and accelerator infrastructures are to be established in one Balkan country with funding from the European Union.
Although one of the CERN founding members, Greece did not show the interest it should, Gazis said, however, he did not elaborate on the reasons Athens distanced itself from the project and missed the chance to establish one of the biggest centers for diagnosis and treatment of cancer fighting centers in the broader Balkan region and given the fact the Greece has the infrastructure and research potential.
Other Balkan countries are lining up to have the infrastructure on their soil, Gazis said.
The strongest candidate seems to be Montenegro as its government embraced the project with very strong interest from the very first moment, CERN said on its website.
Gazis interview was broadcast on Sunday, it is all over the Greek media, but there has been so far no official reaction by the government.
What is the innovative cancer treatment technology?
The miniature linear accelerator (mini-Linac) is designed for use in hospitals for imaging and the treatment of cancer. It will consist of four modules, each 50cm long, the first of which has already been constructed. “With this first module we have validated all of the stages of construction and the concept in general”, says Serge Mathot of the CERN engineering department.
Serge Mathot with the first of the four modules that will make up the miniature accelerator (Image: Maximilien Brice/CERN)
The miniature accelerator is a radiofrequency quadrupole (RFQ), a component found at the start of all proton accelerator chains. RFQs are designed to produce high-intensity beams. The challenge for the mini-Linac was to double the operating frequency of the RFQ in order to shorten its length. This desired high frequency had never before been achieved.
The “mini-RFQ” can produce low-intensity beams, with no significant losses, of just a few microamps that are grouped at a frequency of 750 MHz. These specifications make the “mini-RFQ” a perfect injector for the new generation of high-frequency, compact linear accelerators used for the treatment of cancer with protons.
And the potential applications go beyond hadron therapy. The accelerator’s small size and light weight mean that is can be set up in hospitals to produce radioactive isotopes for medical imaging. Producing isotopes on site solves the complicated issue of transporting radioactive materials and means that a wider range of isotopes can be produced.
The “mini-RFQ” will also be capable of accelerating alpha particles for advanced radiotherapy. As the accelerator can be fairly easily transported, it could also be used for other purposes, such as the analysis of archaeological materials.
Linac4, a larger accelerator designed to boost negative hydrogen ions to high energies, is scheduled to be connected to the CERN accelerator complex in 2020. via cern.com