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Tackling cancer treatment resistance with FLASH

FLASH radiotherapy is a new form of treatment pioneered by the CHUV Service of radiation oncology.

Today, two out of ten people can expect to undergo radiotherapy for the treatment of cancer in their lifetime. Up to 40% of the cancers treated nevertheless prove resistant to current standard care, either due to the inaccessibility of tumours or through excessive damage to surrounding tissue.

FLASH radiotherapy is a new form of treatment pioneered by the CHUV Service of radiation oncology to address such clinical dilemmas. Whilst maintaining the targeted level of radiotherapeutic effect on tumours, its sheer intensity and its administration in milliseconds (rather than minutes) offers a remarkable sparing of adjacent healthy tissues. CHUV scientists and clinician-researchers first recognised this phenomenon, now defined as the FLASH effect, in 2014. They went on to propose its pivotal biological mechanisms and to publish numerous landmark studies, not least of which the results of FLASH treatment success on a patient in 2018, a world first.

“The ability that FLASH will offer to increase radiation doses without provoking increased side-effects may lead to be one of the greatest breakthroughs in radiotherapy in decades.“

Pr Jean Bourhis, head of Service of radiation oncology and the FLASH therapy development team

Through R&D partnerships with industry leaders in the field of radiation therapy systems, CHUV is currently accelerating the translation of FLASH to the clinic with a first clinical trial for treatment of superficial skin cancers due to open for enrolment this year. Intra-operative applications of a further prototype will be developed in 2021 under a further trial.

Project Ambassador (CHUV)

Jean Bourhis

Head of Service of radiation oncology

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