Trained to battle cancer with particles

The successful treatment of tumours with hadrons – hadron therapy – is only possible when accelerator experts, physicists, biologists and oncologists combine their efforts and share their expertises. The PARTNER project aims at training young students to become the future leaders in this field. Four of them are affiliated to CERN as fellows.

The four CERN students participating in the PARTNER project. From left to right: Daniel Abler (Germany), Faustin Laurentiu Roman (Romania), Vassiliki Kanellopoulos (Greece/Germany) and Till Tobias Boehlen (Germany).

Students attending the first course organised in June 2009 by the PARTNER Network in Valencia, Spain.

Till (Germany), Faustin (Romania), Vassiliki (Greece/Germany) and Daniel (Germany) are the four PhD students based at CERN and working for PARTNER – a Marie Curie programme funded by the European Commission over four years. Its main goal is training researchers who will help to improve the overall efficiency of particle therapy in cancer treatment. "PARTNER training network was launched in October 2008", explains Evangelia Dimovasili, technical co-ordinator of the project. "We will recruit a total of 25 students who will collaborate with the institutes and private companies that participate in the programme".

"My task here is to compare the results of MonteCarlo simulation with real data that is made available by various experiments", says Till. Faustin and Daniel work together to build a "collaborative platform based on the GRID technology that will allow hadron therapists to share data in a more effective way". "I will rely on the infrastructure that Faustin and Daniel are working on to build a new database, which should allow oncologists to better evaluate the outcome of particle treatments on their patients", adds Vassiliki.

The students recently participated in the first school organised by PARTNER in Valencia. "We followed lectures on medical accelerators and detectors used in hadron therapy", explains Faustin. "The topics included also Grid technologies and image reconstruction techniques", adds Till. In addition to the technical matters, the career development plan for students foresees courses in leadership and project management techniques.

"Working for the PARTNER project and at CERN was my dream job", says Vassiliki, whereas Daniel wanted to learn more about hadron therapy and "PARTNER is a unique opportunity to be trained in this field". And Faustin adds: "This is a challenging project and I am particularly motivated to apply the most advanced Grid techniques to medical treatment".

All four CERN students will obtain their PhD thesis in the framework of the PARTNER project. "This is a very rich experience because you get a very diversified insight into all aspects related to hadron therapy", observes Till. "The opportunity to effectively network with all people involved in the project is one of the key features of this programme", says Faustin. "And, of course, one of the most important aspects of this project is that we are put in direct contact with the key players in the field of hadron therapy", adds Daniel. "After these three years in PARTNER, I hope to find my place as researcher in medical applications of physics", concludes Vassiliki.

Details on the PARTNER project:

Further reading: