The use of charged particles and nuclei in cancer therapy (hadrontherapy) is one of the most successful cases of application of nuclear physics to medicine. The physical advantages in terms of precision and selectivity, combined with the biological properties of densely ionizing radiation, make the charged particle approach an elective choice in a number of cases. Hadrontherapy is in continuous development and it is an interdisciplinary field where physicians, biologists and physicists contribute together.
Indeed the role of physicists is still very important for the progress of Particle Therapy, and the purpose of this seminar is mainly to discuss those aspects where nuclear and particle physicists are presently active.
A particular attention will be devoted to the problem of reducing the uncertainties on particle range.
This problem is closely connected with the ability to achieve the promised precision.
At present, uncertainties in particle range lead to the employment of safety margins, at the expenses of treatment quality. One of the research items in particle therapy is therefore aimed at developing methods to verify the particle range in patients. Non-invasive in-vivo monitoring of the particle range can be performed by detecting secondary radiation, emitted from the patient as a result of nuclear interactions of charged hadrons with tissue, including β+ emitters, prompt photons, and charged particles. Dedicated detector systems are being developed. The proposed approaches require reliable and precise Monte Carlo predictions and a dedicated research activity for the continuous improvement of existing models is also necessary.