Medical Radiation – Hadron Therapy

Routine treatment began in 1989 on the p(66)/Be neutron therapy unit, while proton therapy was first undertaken on iThemba’s 200 MeV beam in September 1993. The iThemba facilities were planned specifically to provide research opportunities in natural sciences for users from all over the country and other parts of the world, to supply high-energy particles for radiation therapy and to produce radioisotopes, primarily for medical applications.

All the major facilities, with the exception of the neutron therapy unit, were locally designed. The main accelerator is a variable-energy separated-sector cyclotron, capable of accelerating protons to a maximum energy of 200 MeV. The medical complex includes three radiotherapy treatment vaults, laboratories, offices, full medical physics and radiobiology facilities as well as a 30-bed on-site hospital. One of the treatment vaults contains the isocentric neutron therapy unit in which neutrons are produced by the reaction of 66 MeV protons on a thick beryllium target (designated p(66)/Be). The 200 MeV horizontal beam proton therapy facility occupies a second vault. Additional proton therapy beam lines are currently being designed for the third vault. Neutron therapy patients are usually treated during the day on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays , while proton therapy takes place during the day on Mondays and Fridays.

Most patients, including those from other parts of the country and from neighbouring territories, are referred to iThemba through one of the local university teaching hospitals, viz, Groote Schuur Hospital (University of Cape Town) or Tygerberg Hospital (University of Stellenbosch). Both hospitals are about 25 minutes by road from the iThemba. Some private patients are also treated. At present initial patient assessment and preparation is undertaken at the referring hospitals while proton treatment planning as well as neutron treatment planning is undertaken at iThemba. Although many patients are housed in the on-site hospital for the duration of their treatments, others attend as out-patients.

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