LhARA: world-leading radiobiology and novel technology development

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The LhARA facility showing the accelerator, the laser rooms in green and the in-vivo radiobiology lab in blue. The plot shows the energy versus dose rate of LhARA compared to other facilities.

The CCAP has led the design for LhARA: a new world-leading radiobiology facility that could deliver a paradigm shift in cancer therapy.

The Centre for Clinical Application of Particles (CCAP) and the Laser-hybrid Accelerator for Radiobiological Applications (LhARA) consortium has published a pre-conceptual design report (pre-CDR) for a new, highly flexible facility that will probe the “terra incognita” of the radiobiological mechanisms by which therapeutic benefit is produced in particle-beam therapy.

Laser-hybrid Accelerator for Radiobiological Applications

The Laser-hybrid Accelerator for Radiobiological Applications (LhARA) facility is a novel hybrid-accelerator system in which a high-power pulsed laser is used to drive the creation of a large flux of protons or light ions which are captured and formed into a beam by strong-focusing plasma lenses. The figure shows a CAD sketch of the accelerator, the laser rooms in green and the in-vivo radiobiology lab in blue. The plot shows the energy versus dose rate of LhARA compared to other facilities.

LhARA will be able to produce ultra-high intensity beams with well-defined spatial, spectral and temporal characteristics, delivering instantaneous dose rates of up to 109 Gy/s for proton beams and carbon ion beams at repetition rates of up to 10 Hz. These instantaneous dose rates, which are several orders of magnitude higher than conventional accelerator-based facilities, can be achieved because the beam pulse generated by the laser is very intense and has a very small spread in time. The accelerator has been designed to minimise the spread in time of this pulse and so is able to deliver very high instantaneous dose rates to two in-vitro radiobiology labs, located on the first floor, and an in-vivo radiobiology lab. This unique capability in a dedicated facility will enable systematic studies of a myriad biological end-points in both normal- and tumour-cell models not only from routine clonogenic survival and growth assays, but also more complex end-points such as inflammation, angiogenesis, senescence and autophagy.

The laser-driven source provides enormous flexibility in the beams that can be delivered and can therefore serve a world-leading radiobiology programme using novel technologies that could be developed to deliver a paradigm shift in the way particle beams are used to treat cancer.

Pre-conceptual design report

The work presented in the LhARA pre-CDR, which was supported by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), lays the foundations for the development of full conceptual and technical designs for the facility and includes details of a five year R&D plan covering the development of: novel accelerator technology; particle beam diagnostics; dosimetry at ultra-high dose rates; real-time dose verification; simulation; fast-feedback, real-time simulation and control; and radiobiological end-station design.

The pre-CDR was reviewed by a panel of international experts. The panel’s positive evaluation of the LhARA programme included detailed feedback. Overall, the panel supported the work being proposed and were excited by the discovery potential of LhARA.

The pre-CDR is the work of the LhARA consortium, which pulls together expertise from the fields of radiobiology, clinical oncology, particle accelerators, instrumentation, and laser-plasma acceleration, together with industrial partners, national labs and clinical centres. The report is summarised in a paper that has been submitted to the journal Frontiers in Physics: Medical Physics and Imaging. The consortium is now looking towards delivering the R&D detailed in the five-year plan and deliver the technical design that will allow LhARA to be built.

Membership of the LhARA consortium

The members of the LhARA consortium are:

  • Christian Doppler Laboratory for Medical Radiation Research for Radiation Oncology, Medical University of Vienna, Spitalgasse 23, 1090 Vienna, Austria
  • Corerain, 14F, Changfu Jinmao Building (CFC), Trade-free Zone, Futian District, Shenzhen, Guangdong, China
  • Imperial College London, Exhibition Road, London, SW7 2AZ, UK
  • Imperial College NHS Healthcare Trust, The Bays, South Wharf Road, St Mary's Hospital, London W2 1NY, UK
  • Imperial Patient and Public Involvement Group (IPPIG), Imperial College London, Exhibition Road, London, SW7 2AZ, UK
  • Leo Cancer Care, Broadview, Windmill Hill, Hailsham, East Sussex, BN27 4RY, UK
  • Maxeler technologies Limitted, 3 Hammersmith Grove, London W6 0ND, UK
  • National Physical Laboratory, Hampton Road, Teddington, Middlesex, TW11 0LW, UK
  • Queens University Belfast, University Road, Belfast, BT7 1NN, Northern Ireland, UK
  • Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey, TW20 0EX, UK
  • STFC Daresbury Laboratory, Daresbury, Cheshire, WA4 4AD, UK
  • STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Harwell Oxford, Didcot, OX11 0QX, UK
  • Technische Universität Wien, Atominstitut, Stadionallee 2, 1020 Vienna, Austria
  • The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, Bebington, CH63 4JY, UK
  • The Cockcroft Institute Daresbury Laboratory, Sci-Tech Daresbury, Daresbury, Warrington, WA4 4AD, UK
  • The John Adams Institute, Denys Wilkinson Building, Keble Road, Oxford OX1 3RH, UK
  • University of Liverpool, Liverpool L3 9TA, UK
  • University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL, UK
  • University of Stratchclyde, 16 Richmond Street, Glasgow, G1 1XQ, UK
  • University of Surrey, 388 Stag Hill, Guilford, GU2 7XH, UK



Ajit Kurup

Ajit Kurup
Department of Physics

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Contact details

Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 7795
Email: a.kurup@imperial.ac.uk

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Kenneth Long

Kenneth Long
Department of Physics

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Contact details

Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 7812
Email: k.long@imperial.ac.uk

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