Diamond Beams Could Revolutionize Radiation Treatment for Cancer

Diamond beam monitors could form the basis of the next generation of radiation therapy for cancer, according to a national team of researchers led by Stony Brook’s Erik Muller, PhD.

diamond beam

Erik Muller holds one of the diamond monitor devices that could potentially be adapted to newer radiation beam systems that Dr. Samuel Ryu has incorporated into treatment protocols at Stony Brook University Cancer Center.

Muller, Senior Research Scientist and Adjunct Professor, Department of Materials Science and Chemical Engineering in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, is developing high-speed synthetic diamond beam monitors that detect proton and carbon ion beams used for cancer radiation therapy. The research team also includes scientists from Brookhaven National Laboratory.

The technology, supported by a two-year $500,000 grant from the High Energy Physics Section of the Department of Energy, is designed to provide much higher precision of radiation therapy.

Proton/ion beam therapy remains an emerging area of cancer treatment, with the growing potential for specific targeting of tumors without significant damage to surrounding tissue. One of the most challenging areas for the development of this technology is with the beam delivery system, which ensures that the patient receives the required dose while minimizing the risk of exposure to healthy tissue.

“We believe that diamond is a remarkable material for the beam delivery system because it is radiation hard, tissue equivalent, and has a huge linear dynamic range for delivery,” said Dr. Muller. “By using this technology, our team is developing new beam monitors that will provide three orders of magnitude improvement in speed and precision, and has more durability over current technology.”

The team is focusing its research on the diamond beam detector technology in relation to the dose, timing and shape of the beams.

Dr. Muller is also working with Samuel Ryu, MD, Chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology and Deputy Director for Clinical Affairs at Stony Brook University Cancer Center, to adapt the diamond detectors for use in radiation monitoring for cancer therapy. Dr. Ryu is incorporating the latest high-energy photon radiation systems into the Department, and the diamond detectors could potentially be used to enhance these systems even more once commercialized.


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