Birmingham University Supporting Cancer Treatment Research

Jul 14, 2015

The University of Birmingham is supporting ground-breaking research to create a proton Computed Tomography (CT) image that will help to facilitate the treatment of cancer patients in the UK.

The researchers are using the University’s centrally funded HPC service, which was built by OCF, to simulate 1000 million protons, which takes just 3% of the time with HPC comparted with a desktop machine.

Proton therapy targets tumours very precisely using a proton beam and can cause less damage to surrounding tissue than conventional radiotherapy, which often makes it a beneficial treatment for children.

This method is generally reliant on X-rays to image the body’s composition and healthy tissue location before treatment, but this research is aiming to simulate use of actual protons rather than X-rays to image the body.

In doing so, it hopes the accuracy of the final treatment will improve and it forms part of a larger research project set up to build a device capable of delivering protons in this way in a clinical setting.

“The research will give us a better understanding of how a proton beam interacts with the human body, ultimately improving the accuracy of proton therapy,” claimed Dr Tony Price, PRaVDA Consortium research fellow.

“The HPC services at the University of Birmingham is essential for us to complete our research as it gives us the necessary capacity to simulate and record the necessary number of histories to create an image.

“It took us only three days to run a simulation of 180 million protons which would usually take 5400 hours without the cluster,” he added.

The three-year project is funded by the Wellcome Trust and led by researchers at the University of Lincoln working for the PRaVDA Consortium.

"The HPC service built by OCF has proven over the past two years to be of immense to a multitude of researchers at the University," claimed Paul Hatton, HPC and Visualisation Specialist, IT Services at the University of Birmingham.

"Instead of buying small workstations, researchers are using our central HPC service because it is easy for them to buy and add their own cores when required," he added.


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