Boron Neutron Capture Therapy Method to Treat Cancer at NSU’s Teaching Hospital

Novosibirsk State University cooperates with the Budker Institute of Nuclear Physics, SB RAS, Tomsk Cancer Research Institute, the University of Tsukuba (Japan), the University of Oxford (UK) and some research organizations to launch a large-scale project aimed at applying the Boron Neutron Capture Therapy method (BNCT) to treating cancer. The project is to result in creating a teaching hospital associated with NSU. Provided the project is endorsed and adequate funding is allocated, the hospital might be built in 2021-2022.

This hospital is the ultimate goal of a breakthrough project proposed as part of the program on increasing international competitiveness of Novosibirsk State University. The project supervisor Prof. Vladimir Blinov, the head of a laboratory at BINP and a leading researcher at the Laboratory of Hadron Interaction Physics at NSU, explains some details of the project. Boron neutron capture therapy (BNCT) is a biochemically targeted radiotherapy based on the nuclear capture and fission reactions that occur when non-radioactive boron-10 is introduced into tumor tissue, accumulates in it, and the tissue is irradiated with low energy thermal neutrons. Alpha particles yielded from the reaction between boron-10 and thermal neutron release high energy (2.4 MeV), and the tumor tissue is destructed without significant damage to healthy tissue.

Clinical trials prove BNCT to be effective while treating patients with glioblastoma (a carcinoma of the brain), astrocytoma, meningioma, metastatic malignant melanoma, etc. Experiments of Japanese researchers demonstrated that BNCT helped about 50% of patients with grade 3-4 glioblastomas to live more than 5 years, while traditional treatment demonstrates the survival rate of only 3%. An accelerator-based neutron source for Boron Neutron Capture Therapy had been proposed and created at BINP, SB RAS. First experiments were conducted in cooperation with researchers from the University of Tsukuba (Japan) in February-May 2016.

Vladimir Blinov adds that apart from organizing a hospital, the project implies a number of other important events to be carried out. “We plan to create another accelerator-based neutron source, so that it could be installed in clinics; to conduct comprehensive applied and preclinical research to improve the method; to start clinical trials on patients. It is necessary to develop a technology for producing borophenylalanine in quantities sufficient to treat patients and to train physicists and medical researchers to use such advanced technology effectively.”

The project is waiting for endorsement and funding within the federal investment program which is to finance the second phase of NSU premises constructing, which is supposed to include the teaching hospital to implement boron neutron capture therapy. This hospital might be built in 2021-2022.

The members of the project include: NSU’s strategic academic units “New physics”, “Neurosciences in translational medicine”, “Synthetic biology”, the Budker Institute of Nuclear Physics, SB RAS, Tomsk Cancer Research Institute, Novosibirsk State Medical Academy, the University of Tsukuba (Japan), the University of Oxford (UK), the Institute of Cytology and Genetics, SB RAS, the Institute of Chemical Biology and Fundamental Medicine, SB RAS, the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, SB RAS, the N.N. Vorozhtsov Novosibirsk Institute of Organic Chemistry, SB RAS, the M.A. Lavrentyev Institute of Hydrodynamics, SB RAS, and the A.N. Nesmeyanov Institute of Organoelement Compounds, RAS (Moscow).

By Anastasia Anikina, photo by Yulia Pozdnyakova