Radiotherapy: the “Flash” revolution
Discovered in 2014 in Institut Curie’s laboratories by Dr. Vincent Favaudon’s team, the “Flash” effect produces a genuine paradigm shift in radiotherapy. Since the discovery of the medical properties of radiotherapy, it has always been necessary to split therapeutic irradiation into several sessions to limit its side effects. This technique delivers highly intense rays in less than one second to destroy the tumor cells while sparing the healthy tissue. If the next research steps lead to approval for future clinical application, Flash radiotherapy will provide new opportunities for cancer treatment.
The introduction of innovative approaches that reduce the sensitivity of healthy tissues to irradiation would enable us to increase the dose of rays delivered to highly resistant tumors, while considerably reducing the number of treatment sessions. It is also an opportunity to treat cancers that are currently untreatable via radiotherapy.
explains Prof. Gilles Créhange, Head of the department of oncological radiotherapy at Institut Curie.
To date, the “Flash” effect has already proven effective for treating patients with skin diseases with the use of low-energy electron accelerators. Studies are underway for potential applications in intra-surgical radiotherapy.
By combining the “Flash” effect with a very high energy electron source, this new method would provide the opportunity for external radiotherapy treatments penetrating deeply into human tissue, thus allowing deep-seated tumors to be targeted and complex surgical treatments to be avoided.
Creating a French and European VHEE Flash therapy industry, unsurpassed and a leader worldwide
Identified as a national priority in the strategic industry contract for health technologies and industries, the goal is to develop a French and European VHEE Flash radiotherapy industry, in order to treat more cancers and limit after-effects.
The birthplace of radiotherapy over 100 years ago, Institut Curie has always been at the cutting edge of innovation in this field, with one of Europe’s most high-performing technical platforms on its Orsay site, at the heart of Université Paris Saclay.
This industrial sector will also structure other partners, and will be unrivalled in France in the treatment of cancer, a disease which is now considered to be the main public health issue of the next 30 years.
This large-scale project will take place over several years with two phases:
- Establish and standardize the VHEE Flash method, by 2026
- Deploy VHEE Flash facilities in hospitals, by 2028
This partnership with Institut Curie will help accelerate research and development in this revolutionary technology. It is already taking shape, with a joint study on Very High Energy Electron (VHEE) radiotherapy, the results of which will provide the basis for producing medical machines. With the benefit of its unique experience in complex particle accelerators, Thales has all the industrial means and the human know-how required for this innovation.
explains Charles-Antoine Goffin, Vice-President of Microwave & Imaging Sub-Systems at Thales.
Develop the world’s first platform for conducting clinical trials in humans
The partnership between Institut Curie and Thales, which also involves other participants, plans for the creation of a platform to establish this new method, identify the most important indications and roll out a comprehensive medical program. It will be built on Institut Curie’s Orsay site, the only clinical site in France able to accommodate this type of equipment. This VHEE Flash platform will demonstrate the relevance of the technique in humans, an essential step towards access to a medical device and its deployment in all hospitals. This world first will help maintain European positioning and leadership around this French-created technology. The collaboration is an ambitious and pioneering one, representing the first step towards securing the latest technological and medical innovations to help fight cancer.
The estimates of an increase in the number of cancer cases over the coming decades requires us to seek approaches that are more effective and less costly for the health system than the ones we currently have or that are being developed. VHEE Flash radiotherapy has the potential to meet these stringent requirements.
announces Prof. Steven Le Gouill, Director of Institut Curie Hospital Group.
The research conducted at Institut Curie and its rapid circulation within the scientific world demonstrate the relevance of this innovation. The challenge will be to secure the financing needed for transition to the industrial scale, to prevent this innovation born in France from being developed elsewhere.
adds Prof. Alain Puisieux, Director of Institut Curie Research Center.
Institut Curie and Thales are working with the public authorities to include the financing for this platform in the main goals of the France 2030 plan for ground-breaking medical technologies.