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FLASH VHEE radiotherapy: a potential new paradigm in cancer treatment

About This PhD Project

Project Description

FLASH-RT entails delivering a high dose over a sub-second timescale and exploratory experiments indicate cancerous regions suffer lethal damage whereas healthy tissues show little impairment. There has also been a recent publication on the first patient receiving such treatment with a dose rate of 15 Gy per 90 ms. FLASH-RT was shown to reproducibly spare normal tissues, while preserving the anti-tumor activity. This marked increase of the differential effect between normal tissues and tumors prompted its clinical translation. To achieve these dose rates conventional machines have been modified –and of course the delivery is far from optimal. We plan to investigate an optimised overall system design to achieve high dose rate within a large area.

Focusing, scanning and delivery of high dose rates with electrons will be the focus of this project. We have already shown electrons to be readily focused, steered, and to be insensitive to inhomogeneities and hence they are ideal for FLASH-RT. This research, will entail assessing the prospects for a robust machine design –entailing a moderate (with a view to a conservative reliable operation) gradient linac, RF source, magnets, and overall controls. This will necessitate a close collaboration with collaeagues at ASTeC –as several aspects of expertise in this area will be sought to facilitate the design of a new machine.

The research in this area is limited but is clearly a very active and rapidly developing area. In addition to the relative insensitivity to inhomogeneities there may indeed be advantages of this technique over extant methods –such as more precise and rapid delivery to tumors with reduced fractionation (less patient visits needed with a more conformal high dose delivered). Indeed recent results in the area of ultra-high dose “FLASH” radiotherapy indicate considerable sparing of healthy tissue whilst in the presence of a high dose delivered very rapidly (sub-second).

Initially, the student will work with members of Prof. Jones’ VHEE group, and the potentially with the company Elekta, to become familiar with the control system and fundamental characteristics of a beamline. We also anticipate a strong collaboration with CERN colleagues –and with the CLIC group in particular who are fabricating compact high gradient linear accelerators which with suitable modification may serve as a prototype for a VHEE medical machine capable of delivering FLASH radiotherapy.

A major goal will be to investigate the dose profiles and beam penetration on simple specimens and later on more advanced biological samples. The groundwork for this experimental work will be laid down in the initial stages of the project through extensive simulations with advanced particle tracking codes –Topas/Geant4 in particular as we have in-house expertise on the use of this code. In addition to dose penetration studies the student will also investigate beam scanning and focusing both with extensive simulations and by designing and performing experiments at DL and at CERN’s CLEAR facility.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Roger Jones
Principal investigator at Melbourne: Suzie Sheehy

For more details, email (Lead supervisor)

About the Manchester-Melbourne Golden Awards, Dual-award between The University of Manchester and The University of Melbourne
The University of Manchester has existing, highly productive links with the University of Melbourne and now wish to extend this relationship to our Global Doctoral Research Network (GOLDEN) by establishing collaborative postgraduate research projects.

This dual-award programme offers candidates the opportunity to apply for a project with a strong supervisory team both in Manchester and in Melbourne. A dual award is a PhD programme which leads to separate awards from two partner institutions. PhD candidates will be registered at both Manchester and Melbourne and must complete all of the requirements of the PhD programme in both the home and partner university.

PhD candidates will begin their PhD in Manchester and will then spend at least 12 months in Melbourne. The amount of time spent at Manchester and Melbourne will be dependent upon the project and candidates will work with their supervisory team in the first year to set out the structure of the project.

PhD candidates on a dual-award programme can experience research at two quality institutions and applying for a dual-award programme will support you to develop a global perspective and will open the door to new job opportunities. Boost your intercultural skills and experience the opportunities studying in Melbourne and Manchester by applying to one of our available projects.
The University of Manchester has ten studentships available and is now offering candidates the opportunity to apply to one of the following projects to start in September 2020.

You will spend at least 12 months at each institution and will receive a dual PhD at the end of the 3.5 year programme.
Funding for the programme will include tuition fees, an annual stipend at the minimum Research Councils UK rate (around 15,000 for 2019/20), a research training grant and student travel to Melbourne.
Contact for further information:

How to apply:


Anticipated Start Date: September 2020 for 3.5 Years

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