Why particle physics matters / 2

Here is the second chapter of the series about practical applications of particle physics. This time we will talk about the possibility of (very) early cancer detection through accelerator beams.
The source is again Symmetry Magazine.

Can accelerators detect pre-cancerous tissue years earlier than conventional tests?

Scientists are developing a promising new diagnostic tool using the ALICE accelerator.

Esophageal cancer is one of the eight most common cancers worldwide, with nearly half a million new cases each year. Of those diagnosed, only 5 to 10 percent survive for at least five years and, for reasons doctors don’t yet understand, this cancer is on the rise—especially in the West. Now scientists are developing a particle accelerator into a new tool for diagnosing pre-cancerous tissues in patients at risk.

A team led by biophysicist Peter Weightman uses the ALICE accelerator at England’s Daresbury Lab to image the biochemical composition of tissue from patients afflicted by a condition called Barrett’s esophagus. Barrett’s sufferers are 10 times more likely to develop esophageal cancer, but most acquire symptoms too late for treatment.

With ALICE-created images, doctors can distinguish pre-cancerous tissues from benign ones. The method may one day give diagnoses in time to save lives.

(continue reading on Symmetry).

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