At meetings end, my brain is jam packed with medical physics and lots of wonderful new information. The meeting was nothing if not educational, and notably collaborative as well. Both organizations played active, supportive roles in the sessions and invited a tremendous group of speakers. Representatives from so many different disciplines commented on how excited they were to be talking to members of different fields and sub-fields. For a first time joint meeting it came together brilliantly.
Although there were many talks that I couldn’t cover, I did want to make quick note of one thing I didn’t have time to go into detail about.
A group of talks on moving tumors showed some of the most cutting edge and most crucial advances presented at the meeting. In all types of cancer therapy, but especially proton therapy, knowing the location of a tumor is essential to efficiently delivering a dose of radiation or particles. Tumors can shift and move over days, as the patient changes position, or in the case of lung cancer every time the patient breaths. There are different ways to target moving tumors: you can follow the tumor withthe beam, turn the beam on and off as the tumor moves in and out of the beam’spath, strike the entire area in which the tumor moves (but this poses arisk tomore healthy tissue), or try and time the tumor’s movement to themovement ofsomething else like the patient’s diaphragm and move the beam in syncwiththat. Of course all of these rely on how you observe the tumor’s motionwhichis no easy task. There are a handful of imaging options, but none ofthemperfect; it’s hard to image the tumor and deliver treatment at the sametime,or to see the exact boundaries of many tumors. In some cases doctorscan useinjected bio markers to identify the tumor, but this is also limited tobio markers that are available. You can also try to predict the path ofthetumor, and scientists are working on software programs to generate aprojected path of a tumor based on measurements of its unique motion.An idealsystem will incorporate more than one of these methods, and link themtogetherinto a comprehensive model that changes and adapts to the tumor’slocation inreal time.
The title of this year’s meeting was “Frontiers inQuantitative Imaging for Cancer Detection and Treatment,” and I must say thatthe entire thing was sobering. I’m used to attending basic research sciencetalks, where the stakes are not nearly as high as they are for many of thepeople at this conference. It was very inspiring to see so many motivated,passionate people actively working toward solutions to all these problems. Can’t wait for next year.