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January 01, 2003— Ottawa, Ontario

Dr. Iwan Kawrakow, research scientist at the Institute for National Measurement Standards, develops algorithms that have become tools in the planning of radiation treatment for cancer patients.Researchers at the NRC Institute for Measurement Standards (NRC-INMS) in collaboration with MDS Nordion developed a technology for use in planning radiation therapy treatment. The technology, licenced for use by MDS Nordion as part of its treatment planning software package, has received FDA approval. The system also has approval from Health Canada. These approvals promise increased accuracy in determining dosages used in radiotherapy treatments for cancer patients.

The technology involves the application of the Monte Carlo simulation technique, a general solution technique based on random sampling. The system has been applied to a variety of numerical problems from estimating traffic flow to calculating insurance risk. The technique has also been established as a gold standard in planning accurate dosage rates for radiation therapy. Despite this accuracy, until now the approach had been unsuitable for clinical practice due to requirements for massive computing power and the sheer amount of time needed to render results.

The new technique delivers results in a matter of minutes rather than hours and can be run on an ordinary computer desktop system. This increased speed allows routine clinical use of this much more accurate method. Increased accuracy of dose calculations also holds the possibility of new treatment techniques.

Figure shows the dose distribution due to a 15 meV electron beam for a situation where currently used algorithms are know to fail (Monte Carlo simulation).The use of electron radiation in the treatment of cancerous is a well-established practice. Once a physician has located and determined the size of a tumour in a patient, a clinical medical physicist develops a treatment. Determining the correct dosage is a critical part of the treatment plan. An effective treatment plan helps ensure that the maximum dosage is delivered to the tumour, minimizing damage to healthy tissue.

NRC is working hard to ensure that scientific and technical breakthroughs are transformed into exciting and useful applications with significant economic and social benefits. NRC accomplishes this task through close collaborations such as the one with MDS Nordion and multi-party collaborations involving universities, other public organizations in Canada and internationally. NRC also helps create value through licencing agreements, the creation of new companies and industry support tools such as our new network of Industry Partnership Facilities, the NRC Industrial Research Assistance Program and the NRC Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information.

Enquiries: Media relations
National Research Council of Canada

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