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  21-03-2003: A YEAR OF HADROTHERAPY 
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The thermoplastic mask used in the Catana project
The thermoplastic mask used in the Catana project

© Copyright 2002 INFN The use of photos is free of charge. Please request authorisation from the INFN Communication Office


First birthday for the Catana experimental hadrotherapy project

A year from the launch of the Catana experimental project, 32 patients affected by eye melanoma have already been successfully treated. The Catana experiment is carried out at the Infn Laboratories of the South, in collaboration with the Institute of Ophthalmology, the Institute of Radiology and the Physics Department in Catania. The Catana project was designed by a group of researchers of the Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics (Infn) led by Giacomo Cuttone, in collaboration with doctors from the Santa Marta hospital in Catania coordinated by Alfredo Reibaldi. Giuseppe Privitera and Luigi Raffaele from the Institute of Radiology and Salvatore Lo Nigro of the Physics Department at the University of Catania also participated. The clinical project was originally financed by the Miur with funds from the law number 488/92.
“The experimental project called Catana (Centro di Adroterapia e Applicazioni Nucleari Avanzate) began exactly one year ago, on the 26th of March, when the first patient was treated”, says Giacomo Cuttone, “since then 32 patients affected by melanoma of the choroid have been successfully treated. This type of eye tumour, which can quickly bring blindness and the diffusion of metastase, affects 300 people a year in Italy. In particular, a significant regression of the tumour has been observed in all patients and after a year, in none of the cases treated have metastase developed”.

Hadrotherapy is one of the most advanced techniques in radiotherapy existing today and people working on the treatment of tumours consider it particularly interesting. “It is based on the use of beams of charged particles called hadrons, especially protons, neutrons or other light nuclei,” says Cuttone, “since beams of these particles, compared to the photon or electron beams that are usually employed in radiotherapy, have the advantage that they can be dosed and directed with great accuracy. Therefore, only the tumoral cells are hit with great efficiency, sparing the healthy tissue around them. Thanks to this peculiarity, hadrons are especially useful when fighting tumours localised in areas near vital organs, such as the bottom of the eye, the base of the skull or the spinal chord”.
Within the Catana project, the hadron beam is produced by the superconducting cyclotrone, a particle accelerator in the Infn National Laboratories of the South, in Catania. The beam thus obtained is directed with millimetrical precision towards the tumoral mass in order to hit and destroy it. The technique is specific for tumours no deeper than three centimetres and it was developed in particular for the melanoma of the choroid. Nonetheless, with small changes in the instrumentation, the therapy could also be applicable to deeper tumours, such as tumours of the head-neck district, of the central nervous system, of the prostata and lung. Generally speaking, Catana could be applied whenever the tumoral mass is situated near vital organs, in which case surgery is not always possible.

The project in Catania was the first hadrotherapy in Italy. Thanks to this project Italy has become one of the few countries in the world that are able to use hadrotherapy to fight cancer. In one year the Catana experiment obtained an 85% of positive results. The same percentage of successes was found in statistics pertaining to 7 thousand patients treated in Switzerland, Great Britain and the United States. In part thanks to these results, the region of Sicily decided to encourage the therapy by proposing the foundation of a hadrotherapy center in Catania which could treat hundreds of people a year, thus catering to a great number of requests from potential patients.


 RELATED SITES 
http://www.lns.infn.it/catanaweb/catana/default.htm

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