Heidelberg Ion-Beam Therapy Center

Deep within the Heidelberg Ion-Beam Therapy Center, special amplifier systems from Ampegon are helping to cure tumors and advance cancer therapy research

Ampegon designs and delivers high power RF systems for use in promising new cancer therapy techniques using high energy particles. One such centre is the Heidelberg Ion-Beam Therapy Centre (HIT). Inaugurated in 2009, this is the first centre in Europe to treat patients with both heavy ion and proton radiation.

Ion beam radiation is an extremely precise and biologically effective treatment. Unlike with traditional x-ray radiotherapy, ion beam can be controlled to deliver a precise dose directly into the tumour without damaging the surrounding healthy tissue. This treatment method gives new hope to cancer patients whose tumour(s) cannot be treated using traditional radiotherapy, because of difficulties delivering a sufficiently damaging dose to destroy the tumour. Such tumours include those that are very deep-seated, extremely resistant to conventional x-rays, or are surrounded by highly sensitive healthy tissue which is susceptible to radiation damage, e.g. behind optic nerves or in the intestines.

HIT is one of the largest medical research projects ever to be realized in Germany.

The ion beam is produced by a particle accelerator: First an ion source produces positively charged ions, which are fed into a linear accelerator (Linac). In the Linac, the ions are accelerated to more than one-tenth of the speed of light, before entering a synchrotron storage ring. Over the course of millions of circuits, the ions are further accelerated to 75% of lightspeed, before being directed to the treatment room. Magnets shift the course of the beam slightly either horizontally or vertically in order to achieve the optimum direction to attack the tumour, as prescribed by cancer specialists.

Once HIT has reached full capacity, some 1300 patients will receive courses of treatment each year. The main focus of the centre will be on the interdisciplinary research (clinical and experimental) into novel cancer treatments using these ion beams. Following 15 years of planning, 6 years of construction, and €119 M investment, HIT is one of the largest medical research projects ever to be realized in Germany. The centre is built alongside Heidelberg University and is approximately the size of a football pitch. The accelerator is built underground and covered with grass. Two treatment rooms are fed with horizontal beam inputs, while a third has a rotatable gantry that moves the beam input around the patient, allowing treatment from any direction. An estimated one-third of patients are expected to benefit from this treatment possibility.

Patient Treatment Room

Patient Treatment Room