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Range verification in proton beam therapy through prompt gamma-ray imaging

Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

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Dr M Taylor , Prof R Mackay Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Project description:
The beauty of proton therapy over x-ray therapy is that the majority of protons stop within the patient. The problem lies in the fact that we cannot tell, with a great degree of accuracy, exactly where they stop !
Curative radiotherapy aims to establish local tumour control whilst minimising damage to healthy surrounding tissue; termed the therapeutic ratio. The dominant factor affecting this therapeutic ratio is the radiation dose distribution. The physical interactions of protons with matter are such that a superior dose distribution can be created due to their finite range in human tissue, in contrast to that using conventional x-ray therapy. Although proton therapy can spare healthy tissue beyond the distal edge of the dose distribution there are, however, uncertainties associated with the proton range.
Although the dominant process for energy loss by protons in human tissue is multiple Coulomb scattering by the atomic electrons, proton-nuclear reactions also contribute. Depending on the proton beam energy, there can be a sizeable cross-section for proton elastic and proton inelastic scattering. In these reactions the interacting nucleus can be left in an excited state which subsequently decays by the emission of gamma-rays. The detection and tracking of these ‘prompt’ (typically emitted within a few picoseconds) gamma rays can yield information on the interaction sites and thus the range of the proton beam.
This project aims to develop a clinical prompt gamma-ray detection system based on LaBr3 scintillation detector technology. A prototype multi-detector system will be built and tested in the Manchester proton beam therapy research facility. The performance of the system in investigated in a near-to clinical environment.

Training/techniques to be provided:
Training will be provided in the following project specific techniques: radiation detection and measurement, radiation detector system development, digital electronics, signal processing, Monte-Carlo radiation transport simulation development and utilisation, multi-variate data analysis, C++ programming, image generation and manipulation, algorithm creation and adaptation, proton beam control and dosimetry. Also the following transferable skills will be developed: academic writing, oral presentation, science communication and problem solving.

Entry requirements:
Candidates are expected to hold (or be about to obtain) a first class honours degree (or equivalent) of distinction at masters level in physics or medical physics or a closely related area / subject.

For international students we also offer a unique 4 year PhD programme that gives you the opportunity to undertake an accredited Teaching Certificate whilst carrying out an independent research project across a range of biological, medical and health sciences. For more information please visit

Funding Notes

Applications are invited from self-funded students. This project has a Band 2 fee. Details of our different fee bands can be found on our website ( For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website ( On the online application form, select PhD Cancer Sciences.

As an equal opportunities institution we welcome applicants from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and transgender status. All appointments are made on merit.


“A New Method to Reconstruct in 3D the Emission Position of the Prompt Gamma Rays following Proton Beam Irradiation”, Nature Scientific Reports 9, 18820, 11th December 2019.
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