A scientific breakthrough may help give the field of radiation oncology new tools to raise the precision and safety of radiation treatment in cancer patients by helping doctors view the powerful beams of a linear accelerator while they enter or exit the body.
As a way to make radiation safer and better, Dartmouth began to investigate a scientific phenomenon called the Cherenkov effect in 2011.
As a first step, engineers at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth modified a regular camera with a night vision scope to take photos of radiation beams as they passed through water.
What appeared on the photos is the Cherenkov effect, a luminescent blue glow.
To refine the approach for use in radiation treatment, scientists used a mannequin of the human body. They measured and studied the results to refine their ability to capture the luminescence, experimenting with beam size, position, and wavelength.
With the clinical aspects refined, Geisel School of Medicine researchers photographed luminescence during the routine radiation treatment of a dog with an oral tumor.
This was the first time Cherenkov studies came out of the laboratory and into a treatment setting. The scientists coined the approach Cherenkoscopy. As they anticipated, during the session they were able to see detailed information about the treatment field and the dose.
The results have been published in the Journal of Biomedical Optics.