The report was presented in Brussels today at an event held under the auspices of the Italian EU Presidency, gathering over sixty experts in the fields of nuclear physics and medical research.
This document provides an updated overview of how fundamental nuclear physics research has had and will continue to have an impact on developments in medicine.
While most nuclear physics phenomena are far beyond our daily experience there is a great variety of related techniques and applications such as those in medicine which have considerable impact on society. The development of nuclear physics since the first discovery of the atomic nucleus by Rutherford in the early 20th century has been intimately tied to the development of new detection techniques, accelerators and to theoretical and simulation frameworks. A large number of these have found, and will increasingly find, applications in daily life, well outside the realm of nuclear physics and indeed of physics itself.
Nuclear physics methods find increased applications within trans-disciplinary areas as diverse as energy, nuclear waste processing and transmutation, climate change containment, life sciences and cancer therapy, environment and space, security and monitoring, materials science, cultural heritage, arts and archaeology. In the past 20 years nuclear physics has progressed and new ideas have emerged leading to developments of technological interest. One important question in this connection is: how can nuclear physics techniques improve medical diagnostics and contribute to cancer therapy? The NuPECC report focusses on this specific question. It is important to stress that laboratories with focus on research in accelerator-based nuclear physics and on the related accelerator, detector, and isotope-production technology contribute indirectly or directly to developments in nuclear medicine. Not only can the best suited isotopes used for medical imaging and treatment be produced and developed with those accelerators, but the techniques used by nuclear physicists to peer "inside" the nucleus can be used to image and trace these agents inside the body to study human health and diseases. In a multidisciplinary vision, the knowledge of nuclear physics provides fundamental support to the requests of many specialist physicians, such as oncologists, radiologists, radiotherapists, and nuclear medicine specialists, looking to guarantee early detection of disease and to select the most appropriate therapeutic strategies.
Life sciences projects in nuclear physics laboratories are literally saving lives every day. This is commonly the case in European laboratories, which also contribute by providing considerable expertise and advice to other centres which are fully dedicated to nuclear medicine. The new infrastructures in Europe for the production and study of radioactive beams offer in particular, because of their cutting edge technological advances, interesting opportunities for new developments from which nuclear medicine will benefit. In applying nuclear physics in medicine, constructive interaction with physicians is central (what do physicians ask of nuclear physics?).
The answers to those questions are addressed in the NuPECC report, which is organised in three chapters: hadron therapy, medical imaging and radioisotope production. With this document the NuPECC committee intends to inform the scientific community beyond the nuclear physics community, funding agencies and policy makers in research of the latest developments in nuclear medicine driven by the technical efforts currently underway in nuclear physics facilities.
Note for Editors
NuPECC is an Expert Committee of the European Science Foundation (ESF). The aim of NuPECC is to strengthen collaboration in nuclear science by promoting nuclear physics, and its trans-disciplinary use and application, in collaborative ventures between European research groups, and particularly those from countries linked to the ESF. NuPECC encourages the optimal use of a network of complementary facilities across Europe, provides a forum for discussing the provision of future facilities and instrumentation, and advises and makes recommendations to the ESF and other bodies on the development, organisation, and support of European nuclear research, particularly on new projects. The Committee is supported by its subscribing institutions which are, in general, member organisations of the ESF involved in nuclear science and research or research facilities.
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The report "Nuclear Physics for Medicine" is edited by: Faiçal Azaiez, Angela Bracco, Jan Dobeš, Ari Jokinen, Gabriele-Elisabeth Körner, Adam Maj, Alexander Murphy and Piet Van Duppen.
For further information on NuPECC contact:
Professor Angela Bracco
Università degli Studi di Milano
Dipartimento di Fisica and INFN sez. Milano
Via Celoria 16 - 20133 Milano - Italy
Tel: +39 02 50317252
Dr Gabriele-Elisabeth Körner
NuPECC Scientific Secretary
c/o Physik-Department E12
Technische Universität München
85748 Garching - Germany
Tel: +49 172 89 15 011 / +49 89 2891 2293