UL-led project could reduce risk of error in cancer treatments by 55%

Dr Sinead O'Keeffe, University of limerick
Dr Sinead O'Keeffe, University of limerick

Project has the potential to reduce error in the treatment of prostate and gynaecological cancer

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28 November 2019 | 0

A University of Limerick led project has the potential to dramatically reduce the risk of error in the treatment of prostate and gynaecological cancer.

The project, Optical Fibre Dose Imaging for Adaptive Brachytherapy (ORIGIN), has been awarded a €5 million grant from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme. Near €1 million of this funding will go to the University of Limerick.

Origin aims to deliver a more effective photonics-enabled, brachytherapy cancer treatment through advanced real-time radiation dose imaging and source localisation. The team will develop an optical fibre-based sensor system to support diagnostic-driven therapy through enhanced adaptive brachytherapy. Leaders from academia and industry will use novel algorithms to provide 3D dose imaging with source localisation capability.

Principal investigator Dr Sinéad O’Keeffe said; “The Origin system will be integrated into existing clinical brachytherapy treatment planning and delivery systems to confirm that the dose prescribed to the tumour is achieved, whilst ensuring the dose to organs at risk is within acceptable limits.”

“This will provide for optimised dose-led, patient-oriented, personalised treatment plans leading to improved patient outcomes and prevention of treatment errors, with the potential to reduce the overall risk of treatment error by 55%.”

Dr O’Keefe is a Royal Society Science Foundation Ireland University Research Fellow at the Optical Fibre Sensors Research Centre at the Department of Electronic & Computer Engineering in UL.

Brachytherapy is a form of radiotherapy where radiation is administered internally. It can be low dose rate – where the radioactive sources remain permanently in the patient – or high dose rate – where higher activity sources are implanted temporarily.

To ensure that the tumour receives adequate radiation and critical organs are minimally exposed, it is vital that the radiation source is correctly placed. Small size, flexibility and electrical passiveness make optical fibres an ideal solution to true in-vivo volumetric dosimetry.

Optical fibre sensors offer numerous advantages over conventional dosimeters. As the dose information is transmitted using optical signals as opposed to electrical signals, these optical signals can be collected remotely, which ensures utmost safely for both patients and medical staff.

“The optical fibre radiation dosimeters will be further optimised for improved optical signal collection efficiency, higher signal-to-noise ratio and repeatable high-volume fabrication,” explained Dr O’Keeffe. “Taking manufacturability into consideration from the outset will ensure that Origin establishes Europe at the forefront of brachytherapy system development and photonics manufacturing.”

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