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March 20th 2017

Royalty Research Fund awards grant to Dr. Ning Cao and her mentor Dr. Juergen Meyer

Dr. Ning Cao and her mentor on the below research Dr. Juergen Meyer have been awarded a grant from the Royalty Research Fund for their very innovative work  on “Spatially Modulated Proton Minibeam for Cellular and Small Animal Research”. This one-year award provides the funds to obtain preliminary data for submission of a multi-year NIH grant on this topic. The competition was intense but their aims were irresistible to the reviewers because of the potential high patient treatment impact this work promises.

Spatially Modulated Proton Minibeam for Cellular and Small Animal Research

PI: Ning Cao, PhD, Assistant Professor, Medical Physics, Department of Radiation Oncology
Co-PI: Juergen Meyer, PhD, Associate Professor, Medical Physics, Department of Radiation Oncology


University of Washington (UW) has the only facility in the world with a proton beamline that is integrated with a small animal irradiator having CT imaging guidance. Investigators using this facility are well-positioned to perform novel radiobiological studies with proton minibeams. An emerging cancer treatment delivery technique that creates highly spatially modulated minibeams for radiotherapy (mbRT) holds promise to revolutionize the way radiation cancer treatment is performed. An important difference of this technique to conventional radiotherapy is its production of high dose modulation on a submillimeter scale and potential for a greater radiobiological benefit to the patient. Several pre-clinical studies have shown effective tumor response to mbRT in tumor-inoculated rodent models that are resistant to conventional radiation therapy. Remarkably this is achieved while preserving normal tissue functionality following a nominally lethal high dose from the mbRT. This work is to develop and commission a unique proton minibeam on our UW cyclotron for small animal research and to conduct preliminary biological experiments to investigate and compare the effectiveness of proton minibeam to conventional broad proton beams. The specific aims of the work are to perform physical and biological dosimetry of the proton minibeam beamline at UW, conduct in vitro cell studies and a pilot in vivo animal study to investigate the biological advantages of these beams, with the ultimate goal to translating the preclinical research into the clinic. The successful implementation of this proton minibeam technique will greatly improve the therapeutic ratio for the patient treatment compared to conventional radiation therapy.