Cancer treatment researchers shortlisted for global engineering award

PRaVDA exhibition, an international research team developing world-first technology for use in cancer treatment, has been named as a finalist in a global competition to recognise the best innovations in engineering, science and technology.

The PRaVDA project, headed by Professor Nigel Allinson MBE of the University of Lincoln, UK, is a finalist in the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) Innovation Awards. It is shortlisted in the Model-Based Engineering category.

PRaVDA is a unique medical imaging and dosimetry instrument for use in treatment of cancer with proton therapy. It is funded by a £1.6m Translation Grant from the Wellcome Trust.

Currently at the prototype stage, the system will be one of the most complex medical imaging devices ever built. It will provide the Holy Grail for radiotherapists – namely, accurate proton CT (computerised tomography) images, eliminating the potential targeting errors of this new radiotherapy method.

Professor Allinson, Distinguished Professor of Image Engineering in Lincoln’s School of Computer Science, said: “It is a tremendous honour for the PRaVDA team to be shortlisted for an IET Innovation Award. We are mid-way through our three-year project to create world-first technology which will make proton therapy a viable treatment option for many more cancer patients. With two new government-funded proton therapy centres due to open in the UK by 2018, and the number of centres worldwide expected to double in the next decade, PRaVDA has the potential to make a profound contribution to the global fight against cancer.”

Over half of cancer patients receive radiotherapy as part of their curative treatment. Most radiotherapy is delivered using high-energy beams of x-rays. Proton therapy provides a precision alternative, using a high-energy beam of protons to penetrate tissue and reach deep tumours.

The behavior of protons is very different x-rays and offers a number of advantages in radiotherapy. The proton beam does far less damage to healthy tissue when it passes through the body. This reduces the side effects of treatment, meaning higher doses of radiation can be delivered to the tumour site in a single treatment.

This offers particular benefits for treatment to cancers of the brain, eye and spinal cord, and cancers in children, where it reduces the risks of secondary cancers occurring later in life. However, proton therapy’s added potency vastly increases the importance of dosage accuracy.

PRaVDA is a unique instrument (patent-pending) that not only will provide accurate dosimetry and individual pre-treatment set-up, real-time monitoring of dose, dose profile and position during treatment but also provides, for the first time, quality proton CT images.

The team developing the system is an international consortium consisting of six universities, four NHS health trusts, two companies and the National Research Foundation of South Africa.
The Institution of Engineering and Technology’s (IET) Innovation Awards recognise excellence across 16 categories from sustainability and transport to communications and healthcare technologies. The free-to-enter, international, annual awards scheme provides a unique opportunity for engineering inventors to showcase their brightest ideas.

Winners of the IET Innovation Awards will be announced at a ceremony in London on 19th November 2014, hosted by technology writer and TV presenter Kate Russell.

Find out more about the IET Innovation Awards here:

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