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Quantum Life and Medical Science Directorate

Heavy Ion Radiotherapy

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Advancing the miniaturization and standardization of equipment to promote the widespread use of heavy ion radiotherapy

Heavy ion radiotherapy used for cancer treatment involves the acceleration of carbon ions to 70% of the speed of light to deliver radiation to cancer cells and cause cell death. This therapy is also expected to be effective in cancers that are difficult to treat or do not respond to conventional treatments. Furthermore, this therapy is associated with several advantages such as shorter treatment duration and fewer side effects. In 1993, the National Institutes for Quantum and Radiological Science and Technology (QST), former the National Institute of Radiological Sciences (NIRS) succeeded in establishing a heavy ion radiotherapy facility and has been conducting research in this field for over 25 years, thus treating more than 12,000 patients. The target diseases are localized solid tumors such as lung cancer, liver cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, and bone and soft tissue sarcoma.

Heavy ion medical accelerator in Chiba and gantry treatment room

Simultaneously, there are plans to develop a small high-performance fifth-generation heavy ion radiation therapy machine—the Quantum Scalpel—to ensure that all institutions can administer the same high level of treatment and to develop technologies and standardize treatments using the expertise developed by QST to date. With the aim of achieving a society with “zero cancer deaths,” which is the goal of QST, research is also being conducted on the development of a new multi-ion irradiation system using particle beams other than carbon ions along with research on novel cancer treatment strategies such as the combined use of heavy ion radiotherapy and other cancer therapies.

Quamtum scalpel image

Research Department

High-Profile Research Papers

  • "Risk of Subsequent Primary Cancers After Carbon Ion Radiotherapy, Photon Radiotherapy, or Surgery for Localised Prostate Cancer: a Propensity Score-weighted, Retrospective, Cohort Study" Dr. Osama Mohamad, MD, Dr. Takahiro Tabuchi, MD, Dr. Yuki Nitta, MD, Dr. Akihiro Nomoto, MD, Dr. Akira Sato, MD, Dr. Goro Kasuya, MD, Dr. Hirokazu Makishima, MD, Prof. Hak Choy, MD, Dr. Shigeru Yamada, MD, Dr. Toshitaka Morishima, MD, Dr. Hiroshi Tsuji, MD, Prof. Isao Miyashiro, MD, and Prof. Kamada, MD, Lancet Oncology (2019), doi:, Full text
  • "Enhancement of biological effectiveness of carbon-ion beams by applying a longitudinal magnetic field" Taku Inaniwa, Masao Suzuki, Shinji Sato, Akira Noda, Yoshiyuki Iwata, Nobuyuki Kanematsu, Toshiyuki Shirai, Koji Noda, Intl. J. of Radiation Biology (2019), doi: