LhARA Ion Therapy Research Facility scoping project ITRF

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Medical Physics and Biomedical Eng


The Laser-hybrid Accelerator for Radiobiological Applications (LhARA) formed the basis of the proposal to the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Infrastructure Advisory Committee (IAC) to create an ``Ion Therapy Research Facility'' (ITRF) in the UK. The proposed ITRF "... will be a unique, compact, single-site national research infrastructure delivering the world's first high-dose-rate ions from protons through oxygen and beyond, at energies sufficient for both in-vitro and in-vivo studies." The ITRF proposal notes that a ``... laser-hybrid proton/ion source, as proposed by the existing, UK-led, international LhARA collaboration ... can deliver this and meet the needs of the ITRF." The ITRF proposal to the UKRI IAC requested funding for a "Preliminary Phase" activity "... to develop over 2 years the specification, design, and cost of the ITRF and present these in a full Conceptual Design Report (CDR).

We propose to develop LhARA to serve the ITRF. LhARA is conceived as the new, highly flexible, source of radiation that is required to explore the vast "terra incognita" of the mechanisms by which the biological response to ionising radiation is determined by the physical characteristics of the beam, LhARA will exploit a laser to create a large flux of protons or light ions which are captured and formed into a beam by strong-focusing electron plasma lenses. The triggerable, laser-driven source allows protons and ions to be captured at energies significantly above the capture energies of conventional facilities, circumventing the current space-charge limit on the instantaneous dose rate that can be delivered. The plasma (Gabor) lenses provide the same focusing strength as high-field solenoids at a fraction of the cost. Post-acceleration using a fixed field alternating gradient accelerator (FFA) preserves the unique flexibility in the time, energy, and spatial structure of the beam afforded by the laser-driven source.

The LhARA collaboration's long-term vision is to transform the clinical practice of proton- and ion-beam therapy (IBT) by creating a fully automated, highly flexible system to harness the unique properties of laser-driven ion beams. Such a facility will be capable of delivering particle-beam therapy in completely new regimens by delivering a variety of ion species, exploiting ultra-high dose rates and novel temporal-, spatial- and spectral-fractionation schemes. The automated, laser-hybrid system will integrate patient, soft-tissue and dose-deposition imaging with real-time treatment planning to trigger the delivery of dose tailored to the individual patient in real time.

With this proposal, the multidisciplinary LhARA collaboration seeks the resources to:
* Deliver the Conceptual Design Report for LhARA to serve the
Ion Therapy Research Facility;
* Initiate the R&D programme necessary to demonstrate the
feasibility of the laser-driven creation of the requisite proton
and ion fluxes through measurement and simulation;
* Create the detailed specification of a second Gabor-lens
prototype through an initial programme of experiment, simulation,
and design;
* Develop the design of an experiment to prove the principle of
ion-acoustic dose-profile measurement; and
* Create a detailed specification for the in-vitro and in-vivo end
stations through peer-group consultation, design and simulation.

The proposed two-year programme will lay the foundations for the pre-construction phase identified in the ITRF proposal. Serving the ITRF, LhARA will be a unique, compact, research infrastructure. Fundamentally new biological mechanisms in radiation treatment and immune response which underpin the clinical efficacy of proton- and ion-beam therapy will be elucidated. Exploitation of LhARA at the ITRF will promote the disruptive technologies required to pave the way for a radical transformation of clinical practice.


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