Press Release: The path to developing a disruptive new approach to cancer radiotherapy

Weizmann Institute of Science and Acceler8 Venture Builder have received prestigious European Innovation Council funding for demonstrating an innovative, safe and cost-effective cancer radiotherapy approach based on electrons, which are given very high energies using laser plasma accelerator technology. Eventually, the very high energy electron beams will be directed to tumours residing in deep tissue. The final aim is to create a cost-effective form of radiotherapy, with lower irradiaton effects on the adjacent healthy tissues and organs.

The laser facility at the Department of Physics of Complex Systems at the Weizmann Institute of Science

Highly energetic electron beams in cancer therapy

The use of very high energy electrons (VHEE) has a number of important advantages over conventional radiotherapy methods in clinical use for cancer therapy. First, electrons at energies of around 240MeV can penetrate deep within the body with finer resolution and can achieve better tumour targeting, which means that a lower dose of radiation is delivered to ‘healthy’ tissues adjacent to the tumour, lowering the risk of side effects which may, in some cases, be very serious. Second, the electron beams are highly resilient to organ motion and changes in patient geometry, improving treatment effectiveness – This may be of special relevance for the treatment of patients with obesity with radiation as these often suffer from poor outcomes due to heightened tissue and organ motion during therapy delivery. Finally, the machinery required to deliver the therapy is expected to be compact, simple to operate and significantly cheaper than the one required to deliver proton therapy. Professor Malka comments:

The added value of the approach is that, because we are able to produce this very intense electric field, we do not need meters and meters of accelerating distance to produce the very high energy electrons, so it gives a chance to deliver the very high energy electrons for radiotherapy in a machine that can be compact and that can also be affordable commercially.

Professor Victor Malka, Principal Investigator of eBeam4Therapy

Acceler8, a Venture Builder specialising in the commercialisation of research-based innovations, have been tasked with managing the commercialisation of the technology. During the coming years, they will work towards demonstrating commercial feasibility, improving acceptance among key stakeholders (e.g., end users, policymakers, investors) and improving the investment readiness. The goal is to bring a compact and inexpensive radiotherapy instrument to the market during the next decade. The Acceler8 CEO sees the extensive market demand: 

It is already seen that several start-ups in this domain have emerged, which have raised considerable amounts of funding. At the same time, the machines are getting smaller and more affordable, while policy makers are improving the general access to radiotherapy facilities. All these drive the market further and provide an exciting environment for us building this solution.

Antti Heikkilä, CEO od Acceler8 Venture Builder