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Development of a Next-Generation Cancer Treatment System (BNCT)



Osaka University (President: Toshio HIRANO, Headquarters: Suita, Osaka) and Sumitomo Corporation (President and CEO: Kuniharu NAKAMURA, Headquarters: Chuo-ku, Tokyo) (hereinafter collectively referred to as "the Group") have successfully developed the world's first practical Boron Neutron Capture Therapy (BNCT) system that can be installed in hospitals due to its low radiation emissions. BNCT is an innovative treatment for intractable cancer.

BNCT* is one of the ultimate cancer treatment methods using state-of-the-art technology, which is primarily a biochemically targeted type of radiation therapy rather than a physically targeted type, and, therefore, it should be possible to selectively destroy tumor cells dispersed in normal tissue, providing that sufficient amounts of 10B and thermal neutrons are delivered to the site of the tumor.

The Group has focused on research and development leading to the commercialization of the BNCT system using liquid lithium target technology. It recently built a prototype of a practical model and conducted a performance evaluation test at the University of Birmingham. The test results proved that a sufficient amount of neutrons can be obtained to enable treatment while keeping radiation exposure low. To produce neutron radiation, solid beryllium is used in some cases. In the Group’s research, liquid lithium was used instead to successfully produce epithermal and thermal neutron radiation optimal for BNCT. The level of systemic exposure is extremely low, not exceeding the maximum of annually accumulated natural background radiation amount on the earth, and is much lower than the level used at BNCT facilities that are being developed by other groups. Due to extremely low exposure dose, the impact on normal cells is minimized, and the Group's BNCT system is therefore expected to be used for multiple irradiation treatments and application to a wider range of patients.

The Group is planning to begin manufacturing the first practical system in 2014 in cooperation with hospitals in Japan that are considering the installation of a BNCT system and will file an application for approval in 2016. The Group will also cooperate with hospitals and universities in Europe and the United States to establish BNCT using liquid lithium target technology, with an eye toward seeking approval for use at medical facilities in these regions.

* BNCT is a tumor-selective particle radiotherapy. It is a state-of-the-art radiation therapy, extremely effective in treating malignant brain tumors, malignant melanoma, recurrent head and neck cancer for which no treatment is currently available, malignant mesothelioma, and other intractable tumors that are unresponsive to standard conventional treatments. BNCT has so far been proven effective at a medical reactor in Japan, the MIT reactor, and a reactor in Finland. Presently, for practical applications, it will be necessary to develop a unit that can be installed in hospitals.


Target and moderator


Rendering of treatment

Rendering of the first practical system


Related links


  • Division of Sustainable Energy and Environmental Engineering
  • Sumitomo Corporation

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