My friend Laura is a breast cancer survivor. As we walked around the track at our gym recently, we discussed her diagnosis and treatment process. She has made a remarkable recovery and is filled with hope for the future. I couldn’t help but wonder just how different her life and the lives of all cancer survivors might be if DOE researchers had not made their many contributions over the years to improve radiation and cancer therapy.
Included in these important contributions is the PEREGRINE (named for the patron saint of cancer patients). The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) team applied their storehouse of data on nuclear science and radiation transport to build this radically new high-resolution, high-accuracy dose calculation system to plan radiation treatment and tracking at a cost and speed practical for widespread medical use. This system relies on the Monte Carlo mathematical technique to predict the dose delivered to cancer patients receiving photon beam therapy , the most common form of radiation therapy. Find out more about this radiation and cancer therapy breakthrough in the DOE Accomplishments Database .
Building on the PEREGRINE experience, the MINERVA – A Multi-modal Radiation Treatment System was later developed as a joint effort of LLNL, the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, Montana State University, and the University of California Davis, School of Medicine (see “An Inside Attack on Cancer” in LLNL’s Science & Technology .) This system incorporated previously crafted, proven Monte Carlo and deterministic computation methods to extend accurate and patient-specific treatment planning.
Laura is one of more than 2.9 million breast cancer survivors currently in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society , death rates have been declining since about 1989 and are believed to be the result of earlier detection through screening and increased awareness, as well as improved diagnosis and treatment . . . thanks in part to Monte Carlo methods and their use in cancer research.
Read about further research and benefits of the Monte Carlo methods in“In the OSTI Collections: Monte Carlo Methods ” by Dr. William Watson, Physicist, OSTI staff. Additional research documents and historical information is available in OSTI’s collections .