TAE Life Sciences, division of TAE Technologies, will use low energy neutrons to destroy cancer tumors without damaging healthy tissue.
They are using nuclear science know-how that they have built up from their continuing pursuit of commercial nuclear fusion to develop a more effective million cancer radiation treatment device. TAE raised $40 million to build the first new medical neutron accelerator device, which will soon sent to China.
The neutron irradiation system includes a negative ion, electrostatic, tandem accelerator-based neutron source and proven lithium target technology to generate a clinically optimal neutron spectrum for BNCT. (Courtesy: TAE Life Sciences)
Boron Neutron Capture Therapy (BNCT) is a two-step treatment. First, the patient is given a drug that contains boron-10 and preferentially targets cancer cells. The drug is non-toxic and has no effect on its own. The most prevalent targeting drug is boronophenylalanine (BPA), which is taken up by highly metabolic cells. The drug reaches levels 3.5 times higher in cancer cells than in normal cells.
The tumor tissue is then exposed to a beam of low energy neutrons at a level and spectrum optimal for reaction with the boron-10. This reaction, inside the cells, emits two charged alpha particles that destroy the cell while limiting damage to surrounding healthy tissue without boron-10. Once the beam reacts with the boron in the cancer cells, the relative biological effectiveness (RBE) is significantly higher than in most other forms of radiation therapy. This secondary radiation reaction, with cellular-level precision, spares more healthy tissue and can potentially treat cancers that otherwise have few treatment options due to their proximity to critical tissue.
Around 2000 patients have been treated with BNCT over the last couple of decades. Nuclear reactors have been used as the neutron source. TAE will allow hospitals to have a practical neutron source. The TAE system can be installed in a single room and requires less than 1 meter of shielding.
The TAE accelerator has very few neutrons that are outside the ideal energy level of BNCT: 1–30 keV neutrons. Neutrons that are too low energy or too high cause problems for the patient.
Other companies have different approaches. Sumitomo has cyclotrons and six have been installed in Japan. Massachusetts-based Neutron Therapeutics has its own accelerator-based BNCT system at the University of Helsinki.
Less damage to healthy tissue means improved patient quality of life. The treatment is convenient and comfortable and only needs one or two sessions. Regular chemotherapy is painful and wrecks the patient’s body over many weeks.
TAE Technologies Has Promised Rapid 10X Per Year Gains in Fusion Temperatures
TAE has a 100-foot-long prototype nuclear fusion reactor. It is made with stainless steel vessels, electromagnets and particle accelerator tubes. Every eight minutes it is firing a beam powered by 20 million watts of electricity into a cloud of 100 million degrees Celsius plasma.
This makes vortices with temperatures of 3.5 million °C that last around ten milliseconds, rather than the microseconds of a conventional FRC (Field Reversed Configurations). The target for the end of 2019 is to reach temperatures of to around 30 million °C, and tripled the plasma’s lifetime.
TAE Technologies next fusion device will be called Copernicus and it is designed to demonstrate an energy gain. It will involve deuterium-tritium fusion. Binderbauer expects to pass the D-T fusion milestone over the next two years.
SOURCES- TAE Technologies, Forbes, Economist
Written By Brian Wang, NExtbigfuture.com