Swiss researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) say they have developed a new cancer treatment using proton rays. The scientists say they plan to speed up work on the technique to make it more widely available.
The institute said on Tuesday it had decided to accelerate the development of the treatment after obtaining successful results in four years of clinical tests.
It said it had used the technique on 60 patients since 1996, and was able to stop the growth of tumors in 95 per cent of cases.
The treatment has so far only been used to treat eye cancer, but the institute says it has potential for treating cancers in other sensitive parts of the body, particularly the brain or spine. It says proton rays can be focused so precisely that damage to peripheral tissue is kept to an absolute minimum.
The Spot-Scanning technique works by firing protons - subatomic particles with a positive electrical charge - at the tumor and destroying the cells.
The institute said the initial evidence suggests it is a more effective method of treatment than conventional photon ray therapy, although no long-term studies are available.
The research institute, based at Villigen in canton Aargau, said it would be at least another four years before the treatment was ready for widespread use in hospitals. It added that further investment of SFr23 million ($13 million) was needed, and that it was appealing to private donors to raise a third of this sum.
The Paul Scherrer Institute is a multi-disciplinary research centre for natural sciences and technology. Together with universities in Switzerland and abroad, PSI is active in solid-state physics, materials sciences, elementary particle physics, life sciences, nuclear and non-nuclear energy research, and energy-related ecology.