The Applied Electromagnetics and Radiation Physics Research Group has a strong track record in the area of medical physics and access to cutting edge research facilities.
Medical imaging procedures have become incredibly complex in recent years and are frequently incorporated into radiotherapy procedures to produced image-guided radiotherapy; a highly accurate means to deliver a radiation dose to a tumour. Organ motion from the respiratory (breathing) cycle can cause the tumour to move during treatment, potentially compromising the treatment.
Researchers from our group are devising ways to improve the quality of diagnostic images used in radiotherapy and thus improve our ability to better target a moving tumour such as lung cancer.
Our group also has a strong track record of published research in the field of Monte Carlo computer simulations of radiation transport through biological tissue as well as the measurement of neutron activation from high energy, medical linear accelerators.
Brachytherapy is an effective treatment for certain cancers (e.g. prostate cancer) in which radioactive sources are inserted into the tumour via a remote, after-loading device. RMIT University researchers, Dr Rick Franich and Mr Ryan Smith are working to optimise brachytherapy procedures by using sophisticated imaging techniques to ensure correct placement of the radio-isotope within the tumour target region.
Synchrotron microbeam radiation therapy for cancer treatment
Our group performs medical physics and dosimetry work relating to Synchrotron Microbeam Radiation Therapy (MRT), an experimental form of radiotherapy which shows tremendous promise in pre-clinical trials. In collaboration with other groups, we are also investigating the radiobiology of synchrotron MRT.
Synchrotron microbeam radiation therapy (MRT) is a novel, preclinical RT in which synchrotron-generated X-rays are segmented into a lattice of microbeams, usually 25-50 µm wide. The beams have minimal divergence and are spaced at regular intervals of 200-400 µm. Typical radiation doses are 300-800 Gray (Gy) in the beam (peak dose), and 5-20 Gy in the valley between the beams. In studies published to date, synchrotron MRT has shown equivalent or superior tumour control to conventional RT in different animal models, with the added benefit that there is significantly less damage to normal tissues.
Currently, MRT is only possible at a small number of synchrotron facilities world-wide, including the Australian Synchrotron in Melbourne. The underlying radiobiology of MRT is not well understood with numerous hypotheses proposed to explain the effectiveness of a treatment which exposes the tumour to a very steep gradient of ‘peak’ and ‘valley’ doses of radiation.
All Synchrotron MRT research groups world-wide are multi-disciplinary. The field requires input and collaborations from medical physicists, radiation biologists, engineers, oncologists, and computer scientists.
Our group have been highly productive, initially with work at synchrotrons in Japan and Europe, and more recently at the Australian Synchrotron’s Imaging & Medical Beamline (IMBL). Dr Jeffrey Crosbie spent 2 years as part of a NH&MRC Early Career Researcher (CJ Martin) Fellowship at the European Synchrotron in Grenoble, France. Our close proximity to the Australian Synchrotron and the close working relationship we enjoy with beamline staff, gives us a tremendous advantage.