Radiotherapy – Overview


Routine treatment began in 1989 on the p(66)/Be neutron therapy unit, while proton therapy was first undertaken using the 200 MeV beam in September 1993. The iThemba facility was 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, physics research and to produce radioisotopes, primarily for medical applications.



All the major infrastructure, with the exception of the neutron therapy unit, were designed in-house. 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. An additional proton therapy beam line is currently being designed for the third vault.

Neutron therapy patients are usually treated during the day on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays throughout the year, while proton therapy takes place on Mondays and Fridays during four months of the year.Most state patients, are referred to iThemba via Groote Schuur Hospital (University of Cape Town) or Tygerberg Hospital (University of Stellenbosch). Both university hospitals are about 25 minutes by road from iThemba. Patients from other parts of the country and from neighbouring territories as well as private patients are also treated here.

All initial patient assessment and preparation is undertaken at the referring hospitals while proton and 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.