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Billy Loo: “FLASH” radiation therapy brings hope to cancer patients

This technology aims to eliminate cancer while minimizing collateral damage to surrounding healthy organs.

A hospital room for administering chemotherapy medication

A potential advance in radiation therapy aims to develop a FLASH delivery system that could shrink tumors in less than a second. | iStock/zgr_pro

Stanford radiation oncologist, Billy Loo, says that a new generation of radiation therapy technology called PHASER will be so fast that it can even compensate for the patient moving during treatment.

High-energy X-rays will be fired so quickly, like a flash photograph, that motion is frozen and radiation can be more precisely focused on tumors. His research team is also finding that such ultra-fast “FLASH” radiation kills cancer cells through new biological mechanisms while causing less damage to healthy tissues.

Loo says that while radiation benefits two-thirds of U.S. patients, half of patients with cancer around the world lack access to these curative technologies. To address issues of access, the Stanford Radiation Oncology and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory team is designing PHASER to be a mobile unit that will fit in a standard cargo shipping container and can be powered by solar energy.

Join host Russ Altman and radiation oncologist Billy Loo for a discussion of advances in radiation therapy that are giving new optimism to cancer patients and others.

You can listen to the Future of Everything on iTunes, Google Podcasts, SoundCloud, Spotify, Stitcher or via Stanford Engineering Magazine.