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STSフォーラム第14回年次総会

掲載日:2018年12月26日更新
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I am Toshio Hirano, President of the National Institutes for Quantum and Radiological Science and Technology, or QST. Today, I want to introduce our mission to realize a healthy and long-living society without cancer death, through the use of nuclear technology.

QST was established on April 1, 2016, through a merger of the National Institute of Radiological Sciences with two directorates from the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, namely the Quantum Beam and Nuclear Fusion directorates. At present, QST has five institutes located throughout Japan. Additionally, we are participating in the construction of ITER to realize fusion energy in France. As Dr. Bernard Bigot noted, the ITER project is important to all of humanity, aiming to resolve energy problems as well as mitigate climate change.

Today, I would like to point out the importance of creating a society with harmonious diversity, which is the guiding principle of QST. As you know, the world is full of diversity: differences in language, people, customs, religion, and others. Diversity is essential for innovation and a spiritually rich human society. But diversity has also engendered barriers, resulting in conflicts and even war. The history of humanity is the history of developments born from diversity, and conflicts caused by diversity. I am afraid that 21st century is the century of an explosion of diversity. In order to survive, humankind must overcome these barriers. Science and technology, like arts and sports, I think, is a language common to all humankind. Utilizing such common languages, we can communicate, understand, and respect each other in spite of our different languages and cultures. In light of this idea, the ITER project is ideal because several countries are pursuing a shared dream, in this case to realize fusion energy for the betterment of all humanity, through the science and technology we share.

Our research and development covers a wide range of fields, such as fusion energy, material science, life science, and medicine, all of which are based on quantum science and technology. Through all of these activities, we want to contribute toward the realization of a healthy and long-living society. To this end, overcoming cancer is one of issues to be resolved. In the world, 14 million people are newly diagnosed every year. That number is predicted to increase to 22 million in 20 years.

At QST, we aim to overcome cancer by developing the “Quantum Scalpel”, a next-generation heavy-ion radiotherapy machine. The potential of the Quantum Scalpel will be coupled with targeted radioisotope therapy and immunotherapy to realize a healthy and long-living society with zero-cancer-death.

In 1946, Robert Wilson, a nuclear physicist and Nobel prize laureate, first proposed the clinical application of ion beams for cancer treatment. QST-NIRS succeeded in building the world’s first heavy-ion radiotherapy machine utilizing carbon-ion in 1993. Since then more than 10,000 patients with a variety of cancers, including radio-resistant ones, have been successfully treated, while also realizing short course treatment for common cancers.
But why does it work so successfully? The physical reason is that, different from X-rays or Gamma rays, the ion beam deposits most of its energy at a stopping point, known as the Bragg peak. The Bragg peak gets sharper with heavier ions such as carbon in contrast to lighter ions, such as protons. Proton, in comparison, has a larger lateral penumbra than carbon does. In addition to this advantage in dose distribution, carbon-ion is 2-3 times more biologically effective than X-ray or proton, and enables us to effectively treat even radio-resistant cancers. By making use of these properties, we can deliver sufficient dose to the target safely while sparing surrounding normal tissues.

 As I mentioned, Carbon-ion radiotherapy is very effective, but the machine size is currently 60m by 45m, and the cost of construction is about 100M USD. Furthermore, higher performance is required to realize a one-day treatment for almost all tumors.
 The “Quantum Scalpel” is our vision of the ultimate ion-beam radiotherapy. It is a compact machine with high-performance. We will introduce both superconducting and laser-acceleration technologies to reduce the machine size down to a 10m by 20m footprint, so as to be installable at nearly any existing hospital. To realize higher clinical effectiveness, we have studied “multi-ion irradiation technology”. If we can irradiate the tumor with multi-ion species such as helium, carbon, and oxygen-ions, making use of each of their unique properties, for example, we can on demand deliver an exact biological effectiveness to any target. This can reduce side effects even further and lead to a one-day treatment for almost all types of cancers, making it possible for patients to be treated while working.

In order to realize zero-cancer-death, we have to control both the primary tumor as well as metastatic cancer cells. The Quantum Scalpel is effective in controlling the primary tumor, while targeted radioisotope therapy, or TRT, is effective for metastatic cancer cells. Considering the recent promising results of cancer immunotherapy, I think that the combination of quantum scalpel, TRT and immunotherapy is an ideal cancer treatment to realize zero-cancer-death. Furthermore, all these treatments are beneficial for maintaining quality of life, and therefore the combination of these may enable us to realize a healthy and long-living society with zero-cancer-death.
QST strategically promotes TRT using alpha emitters. As alpha particles are 8,000 times heavier than beta rays, which are usually used in traditional TRT, alpha particles deposit their energy in a highly localized region, similar to how carbon-ion radiotherapy operates.
We have already established an alpha emitter based agent for TRT. This agent can be delivered to cancer cells by utilizing antibody recognizing antigens expressed on cancer cells, for example.

A healthy and long-living society with “zero-cancer-death” may sound like dream, but I believe that both quantum scalpel and TRT, which we are presently developing utilizing nuclear science and technology, will make the dream come true.
Thank you for your kind attention.

  1, Oct, 2017
QST president, Toshio Hirano

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