CERN and CNAO, a long-standing collaboration in the fight against cancer


Treatment room of the CNAO hadrontherapy centre
Treatment room of the CNAO hadrontherapy centre (Image: CNAO)

On November 24, the CNAO (Centro Nazionale di Adroterapia Oncologica) hadrontherapy centre in Pavia, Italy, will organise a special event to celebrate twenty years since the CNAO Foundation was established and ten years since the first cancer patient was treated at the CNAO facility. Since then, more than 3600 patients have been treated at this state-of-the-art centre, one of only six in the world able to perform hadrontherapy with both proton and carbon ions.

CERN and CNAO have a long-standing collaboration, which dates back to the design phase of the treatment centre. Between 1996 and 2000, under the impulsion of Ugo Amaldi, CERN hosted and contributed to the Proton-Ion Medical Machine Study (PIMMS), which aimed to combine efforts and expertise in order to optimise a design for a cancer therapy synchrotron. The PIMMS concept was made publicly available and, after further enhancement by Amaldi’s TERA foundation and seminal contributions from INFN, evolved into the final CNAO accelerator; the MedAustron centre in Wiener Neustadt, Austria, was then based on the CNAO design. Since those early days, CERN has continued to support CNAO and MedAustron by sharing its expertise in accelerator and magnet technologies.

Many congratulations to CNAO on reaching this milestone! The success of CNAO shows that, although it can take time and dedicated effort before cutting-edge technologies developed for high-energy physics can actually be applied for the benefit of society, the results are definitely worth it.

says Mike Lamont, CERN’s Director for Accelerators and Technology and Chair of the CERN Medical Applications Steering Committee (CMASC).

For us, it is inspiring to see that CERN’s know-how can help contribute to the fight against cancer.


Today, CERN, MedAustron and INFN are among the partners of the EC-funded HITRIplus (Heavy Ion Therapy Research Integration plus) project coordinated by CNAO, where they are jointly developing new accelerator and beam delivery technologies, to extend the reach of the present generation ion therapy centres and to define a new European reference design, at lower cost and dimensions.

In the twenty years of CNAO we have always fruitfully collaborated with CERN and this partnership is going to continue also in the future. In fact, we are already discussing with CERN, INFN and MEDAUSTRON to develop a next-generation superconducting gantry for carbon ions that will contribute to reduce the cost, size and complexity of ion therapy centres and attract industry

says Sandro Rossi, CNAO’s Director General.


Join the event by registering at the following link:

Please note that the event will be in Italian.