Physics for Health in Europe

Medicine increasingly relies on cutting-edge techniques for the early diagnosis and treatment of tumours and other serious diseases. The first “Physics for health in Europe” workshop will be held at CERN on 2-4 February 2010. It will aim to open the way to a European roadmap for using physics tools in the development of diagnostic techniques and new cancer therapies.
Physics is not new to producing applications for life sciences. Several detection techniques are currently used in diagnosis instruments and hadron therapy is one of the most promising ways of treating tumours which cannot be treated with conventional irradiation techniques since they are either radio-resistant or located very close to critical organs.. However, despite this potential synergy, the two communities – physicists and medical doctors – do not often meet to plan common actions. The “Physics for Health in Europe” workshop is one of the first attempts to get both communities to work on shaping the future of high-tech medicine.

“One of the purposes of the workshop is to stimulate the exchange between different disciplines and explore synergies between physics and physics spin-offs to fight diseases”, explains Manjit Dosanjh, in charge of life sciences within the Knowledge & Technology Transfer group. “The focus of the workshop will be on radiobiology, accelerators, radioisotope production, detectors, and use of information technology.”

Sharing and discussing the results of the most recent research and addressing the challenges and possible developments will help indicate the subjects with the highest priority for further studies in diagnosis and therapy on the European scale. “We have identified four main sessions, which correspond to the four main areas where physics can interact more effectively with medicine: charged particles in therapy and space, radioisotopes in diagnostics and therapy, prospects in medical imaging, and novel technologies in radiation therapy”, explains Ugo Amaldi (member of the programme committee).

For each of the main sessions there will be two keynote speakers, one from the physics field and the other from the medical field. “The idea of the workshop is to give a balanced view of the current situation, define the areas of potentially interesting developments and, after the workshop, start working together so that physicists will orient their efforts in order to best meet doctors’ needs”, states Steve Myers, Director of Accelerators &Technology.

The workshop is open to everyone and all participants will have the possibility of presenting posters. The programme committee includes eminent experts in both the physics and medical fields with the participation of Jean Emmanuel Faure, Scientific Officer for Research Infrastructures at the European Commission. “The participation of all key players is a crucial factor for the success of defining the roadmap, as well as the support of the funding agencies and programmes in order to put this into practice”, explains Sergio Bertolucci, Director of Research & Scientific Computing. And, he concludes: “The workshop will catalyse discussion between the physics and the medical community, helping to define what the doctors need and how physicists can best provide assistance. The strategic document that will result from the workshop will certainly help the decision makers to set the priorities and fund the best projects”.

For further information about hadron-therapy projects at CERN, please visit the ENLIGHT++ website.

by CERN Bulletin