Proton Therapy Medical Device

May 2, 2023 | Medical, SYSIOPEYA, Systems Engineering

How to destroy tumors with high energetic proton beams.

Proton therapy is a type of radiation therapy used to treat cancer. It requires specialized equipment. This includes a synchrotron or cyclotron to accelerate the protons, and a gantry or nozzle system to direct the proton beam to the tumor site.

The synchrotron or cyclotron is used to create the high-energy proton beam that will be used to target the tumor. The beam is then guided through a series of magnets that help shape and focus the beam to match the shape of the tumor.

 The gantry or nozzle system is used to deliver the proton beam to the tumor site. This subsystem is a rotating device that can deliver the proton beam to the tumor from different angles. It allows the radiation to be precisely targeted to the tumor while avoiding nearby healthy tissues and organs. The nozzle system controls the speed and intensity of the proton beam as it enters the body. This ensures that the desired amount of radiation is delivered to the tumor.

Proton therapy can be a highly effective treatment option for certain types of cancer. But it requires specialized equipment and expertise that may not be available at all cancer treatment centers.

Particle Accelerator

 The cyclotron is a type of particle accelerator that is used to create the high-energy proton beam used in proton therapy. This technology works by using a combination of electric and magnetic fields to accelerate protons to nearly the speed of light.

 The cyclotron consists of two main components: the magnet and the accelerating electrode. The magnet is a large, circular device that creates a strong magnetic field. The accelerating electrode is a series of metal plates that are charged with an alternating electric current.

 To create the proton beam, a source of hydrogen gas is injected into the cyclotron. The hydrogen gas is ionized to create protons, which are then accelerated by the electric field created by the accelerating electrode. The protons are guided in a circular path by the magnetic field created by the magnet. As the protons circle around the magnet, they gain energy and speed.

The protons are gradually accelerated to higher and higher energies until they reach the desired energy level for proton therapy. The proton beam is then extracted from the cyclotron and directed to the gantry or nozzle system, which delivers the beam to the tumor site. 

Sophisticated Technology

 Cyclotrons used in proton therapy are typically large, complex machines that require specialized maintenance and operation. They are also very expensive to build and operate. Therefore proton therapy is not widely available at all cancer treatment centers. However, advances in technology have made it possible to build smaller, more affordable cyclotrons, which may make proton therapy more accessible to patients in the future.

SYSIOPEYA LTD supported proton therapy device development (requirements engineering) for Varian ProBeam systems.

Which embedded systems are involved in the proton therapy device?

Proton therapy devices are very complex and very huge technical devices. There many control algorithms needed for operation of the particle accelerator, gantry movement, patient positioning system (robot table) and several safety systems in the radiation environment. All these embedded systems have to be coordinated to provide an overall functionality. Sophisticated system engineering activities guarantee a powerful, useful and cost efficient medical product.

Examples for embedded software in a proton therapy device.

One example is the software driven automatic patient postioning under the radiation beam exactly where protons are delivered from the device. Sophisticated positioning algorithms position the therapy patient table at exactly the 3D position that is required by the automatic processed treatment procedure. All movement is considered with highest fullfillment concerning safety and usability.

Another example is the exact positioning of the proton beam to exactly target a specific tumor cell in 3D space inside the patients body. Embedded software controls magnets to deviate the proton beam to target one cancer cell after another. Precison is here in the milimeter range.

There are many more technical subsystems in the proton therapy device, that are driven by embedded software like x-ray imaging, integrated CT, control of the beamline to different treatment rooms, control of a cyclotron with supra-conduction magnets and more.