How do you kill hard-to-reach tumors? Particle physics is on the case | National Geographic


High-energy electron beams may be able to kill tumors 10 times deeper than current treatments can—without damaging vital organs.

CERN, a center for physics research outside Geneva, Switzerland, is best known for discovering some of the building blocks of our universe. But scientists there are also studying new ways to treat cancer. While current radiation therapies use beams of protons, charged particles called ions, or photons of light to kill cancerous cells, another particle may be better suited to targeting tumors deep inside the body: the electron.

In a recent study, a team of physicists revealed that very high-energy electron (VHEE) beams could reach tumors 10 times deeper than current treatments and with such precision that doctors may be able to target cancers near vital organs without damaging surrounding tissues.

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