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Proton Therapy at PSI

PSI operates the first compact scanning-Gantry worldwide for proton radiation therapy of deep-seated tumors. The spot-scanning technique developed at PSI enables malignant tumors to be targeted with high precision deep inside in the body, and their growth successfully stopped, without damaging healthy tissue around the target area.

How does it work?

Protons have excellent physical properties for radiation therapy which permit one to control very precisely the shape of the dose distribution inside the patient's body. These positively charged elementary particles - the nucleus of the hydrogen atom - are accelerated to high energies and directed with high accuracy into the tumor by means of computer controlled magnetic fields. The dose delivered by a proton beam is well localized in space, not only in the lateral direction, but also very precisely in depth, due to the presence of the characteristic BRAGG peak. Surrounding healthy tissue is thereby optimally protected.

By end of 2012 the unique PSI compact Gantry 1 was used to treat more than 900 patients suffering from brain, skull-base or spinal cord tumors as well as abdominal sarcomas. Among the patients were more than 250 children and youth under the age of 20.

Clinical partners

Since mid 2004 small children also benefit from proton therapy at PSI. These very young cancer patients have to be anesthetized for the few minutes of the treatment, so they stay accurately positioned and the healthy tissue remains unharmed. A team of anesthetists from the Zurich Children's Hospital looks after that side of things.

Since 1984 we operate the OPTIS facility, which was developed by physicists at PSI for treatment of eye tumors. In close cooperation with the 'Hôpital Ophtalmique' of the' Institute Jules Gonin' at the University of Lausanne by end of 2012 allmost 6000 patients had been treated with this unique method, in which a proton beam is directed accurately onto the intraocular melanoma. In more than 98 % of cases tumor growth can be stopped or the tumor eradicate. In more than 90 % of cases the eye can be saved.

Expansion of research and treatment services

Inspired by the success story at the OPTIS facility, we develop further our equipment for widespread application of proton therapy in hospitals (project PROSCAN). This entails the construction and operation of a dedicated medical cyclotron (COMET) for proton acceleration and the development of a new Gantry 2 with advanced scanning techniques that extends the range of conditions we can treat, including moving tumors. Gantry 2 started clinical operation in November 2013. A third treatment room, Gantry 3, sponsored by the Canton of Zurich, will be realized and used mainly for clinical research in close collaboration between the University Hospital in Zurich and PSI..

With the expansion of the facility, PSI is able to treat about 500 to 600 patients per year, including those with eye tumors. The financial investments in equipment - including the new Gantry 2 and the extension of the medical infrastructure - amounts to about 70 MCHF, which is to be raised from PSI funds, sponsoring and donations, as well as from donations of the Canton of Aargauand the Canton of Zurich (each 20 MCHF) for the PROSCAN project, and income from industrial applications (technology transfer).

We are still looking for additional sponsors and benefactors - great or small - to make PROSCAN a further success story. For information please contact Martin Jermann, Proton Therapy Program PROSCAN. Here are our bank account details:

Neue Aargauer Bank
Postfach 528
CH-5201 Brugg

Konto Nr.: 968671-81
IBAN: CH50 0588 1096 8671 8100 0
Clearing No.: 5881

Krebsforschung PSI
Paul Scherrer Institute
CH-5232 Villigen-PSI

Every sum contributed will be acknowledged. All funds received will be used exclusively for the Proton Therapy Project PROSCAN. Sponsors and benefactors will be kept in touch with the progress of the project.

Sponsors and donors to date (CHF 5'000.- and above)