NRE 8011/8012 Seminar


Towards Clinical Implementation of Ultra-High Dose Rate Proton Beams: Physics in a FLASH


Dr. Joseph Harms


The University of Alabama at Birmingham


Thursday, September 21, 2023 at 11:00:00 AM   


Boggs Building, Room 3-47


Chris Wang


More than half of all patients with a cancer diagnosis will receive radiation therapy as part of their course of treatment. The central goal of any radiation treatment plan is to kill cancer cells and do as little harm as possible to healthy cells, maximizing the therapeutic ratio. Over the last several years, improvements in technology have led to an increase in this therapeutic ratio, allowing for more effective treatments while also decreasing the sometimes severe side effects associated with radiation therapy. One of these promising technologies is called FLASH therapy. With FLASH, an entire course of radiation therapy, which would normally take between 1-6 weeks, can be delivered in less than a second. While this new technology has shown extremely promising results in animal studies and in early clinical trials with humans, it also presents new challenges. One of the key steps in ensuring safe delivery of patient treatments is through measurement of radiation fields with specialized radiation detectors, a process called patient-specific quality assurance (PSQA). When measuring PSQA in a conventional radiation therapy workflow, the goal is to verify that the delivered dose matches the planned dose. However, when looking at FLASH treatment plans, it is not only the dose that we need to verify, but also the dose rate. Currently, there is no widely accepted way to verify dose rate from FLASH treatment plans. Additionally, many of the radiation detectors that are commonly used in radiation therapy do not function at these high dose rates. In this talk, we will discuss a novel radiation detection system comprising an ultrafast camera placed in the treatment room and focused on a scintillating screen placed in the beam line. This setup allows for simultaneous measurement of dose and dose rate.


Dr. Joseph Harms is an assistant professor of radiation oncology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. Harms completed his bachelor’s degree in physics at Austin Peay State University, Master in Medical Physics at Georgia Tech, and PhD in Nuclear Engineering at Georgia Tech under the guidance of Dr. Anna Erickson. After Graduate school, Dr. Harms completed a three year residency in Therapeutic Medical Physics at Emory University. His primary research interests are in automation and implementation of new technologies in the clinic, including knowledge-based planning, clinical scripting, adaptive radiotherapy, and advanced measurement techniques. In addition to clinical and research duties, Dr. Harms is an active mentor in UAB’s Therapeutic Medical Physics residency.


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