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There is a growing investment in proton and heavy ion therapy worldwide, with 89 proton centers and 12 carbon-ion centers currently in clinical operation. 31 proton centers (about 35%) and four carbon centers (around 33%) are located in Europe. Unanswered questions exist: and these questions range widely in scope and include physical, biological, and societal aspects.
In an article submitted to Medical Physics and Imaging entitled: ‘Mapping the Future of Particle Radiobiology in Europe: The INSPIRE Project’, 30 co-authors – including Marie Davídková of the Department of Radiation Dosimetry, Nuclear Physics Institute of the CAS, Prague, Czech, and Vladimír Vondráček of the Proton Therapy Center Czech – describe the goals of the ‘The INSPIRE Project’. The “Infrastructure in Proton International Research” (INSPIRE) project was created to provide an infrastructure for European research, in order to unify research efforts on the topic of proton and ion therapy across Europe, and to facilitate the sharing of information and resources.
More specifically, this article highlights the radiobiological capabilities of the INSPIRE partners, providing details of physics (available particle types and energies), biology (sample preparation and post-irradiation analysis), and researcher access (the process of applying for beam time). The collection of information contained within this article was created to provide researchers both in Europe and worldwide with the tools required to select the optimal center for their research needs.
The INSPIRE project comprises 17 European partners, 11 of which offer beam time through transnational access. Most of these partners are either clinical centers or have very close connections to clinical centers. ‘Transnational access’ (TNA) provides researchers with an opportunity to access beam time and funding for experiments at INSPIRE partners. The beam time is offered to all researchers and is not limited to INSPIRE partners. Whilst the beam time is largely accessible for European researchers, up to 30% of the hours are available to researchers outside the EU. The application process is managed through the INSPIRE website.
As evidenced by this body of work, it is clear that whilst there are a number of differences between the partners there are also a number of similarities. This allows for investigations into the cause of variance in published radiobiological data, such as the planned joint experiment of the INSPIRE partners.
Efforts are being made to further increase in vivo capabilities, whilst in vitro research is invaluable for identifying and probing mechanisms, in vivo research is crucial for clinical adoption. Also required here is a closer relationship with clinical partners, ensuring clear direction for future research.
A complete list of the INSPIRE partners can be found on the INSPIRE website.
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