Cancer patients in Austria and Hungary set to benefit from advanced new particle therapy

A cross-border project, funded by the European Regional Development Fund, is helping cancer patients in Austria and Hungary, as well as raising awareness of ion beam therapy.

Additional tools

New ionic therapy will help cancer patients in Hungary and Austria. New ionic therapy will help cancer patients in Hungary and Austria.

From December 2015, patients from hospitals in both countries, as well as neighbouring countries, will be able to receive ion beam therapy in the new treatment facility which is being built by the innovative medical research company MedAustron in Lower Austria close to the Austro-Hungarian border.  When the new centre becomes fully operational, it will have the capacity to treat around 1 400 patients a year.

Ion beam therapy is a form of radiotherapy which targets cancerous tumours much more effectively than conventional radiotherapy.  Instead of using photon and electron beams, ion beam therapy uses protons and carbon ions.  Compared to conventional radiotherapy, the energy output of ion beams can be focussed and controlled much more effectively.  Because ion beam therapy spares normal tissue, higher doses of radiation can be safely administered.  As a result, radiation exposure to healthy tissue close to the tumour can be reduced, leading to a reduction of treatment-related side effects.  This makes ion beam therapy particularly suitable for tumours which are close to radiosensitive organs, like the optic nerve, the spinal cord, the liver and lungs.

Promising studies

Proton therapy is particularly beneficial for treating cancers in children and adolescents, as tissue in growth is more sensitive to radiation.  Carbon ion therapy is particularly suitable for use in bone and soft tissue and in slow-growing and poorly-oxygenated tumours.  Promising studies have shown that tumours resistant to conventional radiotherapy can often be successfully treated using carbon ions.

When the new treatment centre opens its doors to patients in 2015 it will become one of only four centres around the world to offer ion beam therapy using both protons and carbon ions at the same institution.

In order to ensure that patients take full advantage of the new treatments on offer, an ERDF-funded project was launched to raise awareness among patients and medical professionals in Austria and Hungary of the new high-tech facility.

Among other things, the project has helped to implement a transnational imaging and radiation data management system to enable electronic connectivity between individual treatment centres in Austria and Hungary.

MedAustron currently employs 60 people, but this is expected to rise to around 160 when the new centre becomes fully operational.  Because patients will be treated on an out-patient basis, private accommodation providers close to the treatment centre will also benefit as most patients will stay in the area for several weeks while receiving treatment.  Project manager Ulrike Mandl-Schweiger said that the project had been successful in making sure that the logistical and administrative systems were in place before patients started arriving for treatment.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “RegIonCo Regional Co-operation for Ion Beam Therapy” is EUR 1 921 699, of which the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributed EUR 1 436 928 from the Cross-border Co-operation Programme Austria-Hungary in the 2007-2013 programming period.

Draft date