The recommendation by the Science Council that the Federal Government should provide funding to the tune of 70 million marks for the installation of a heavy ion therapy unit for cancer treatment at the Hospital Complex of the University of Heidelberg has been welcomed with signal gratification by Baden-Württemberg's Minister-President Erwin Teufel and higher education minister Klaus von Trotha. "The unit is unique of its kind in Europe at the moment and promises a major enhancement of the care available to cancer patients," Teufel and von Trotha declared on 22 May in Stuttgart. "The recommendation by the Science Council reaffirms the fact that Heidelberg University's Hospital Complex is a top-ranking medical institution."
The unit is designed to provide care for patients with ailments hitherto resistant to therapy. Unlike traditional radiation therapy, heavy ion radiation can destroy tumours with a high degree of precision, while ensuring maximum preservation of healthy surrounding tissue. This means a major lowering of risk in connection with interventions in highly sensitive organic structures, e.g. in the brain. "This technique closes a gap in medical care available in Germany hitherto," Teufel and von Trotha emphasised. "It is a major success for medical progress and underlines the leading status of the University of Heidelberg within Germany." There are only two other units of this kind in the world, one in the United States, the other in Japan. Scientists in Heidelberg have close working contacts with those units.
The project is based on long-time and highly promising studies on heavy-ion therapy conducted at the University of Heidelberg Hospital Complex, the Heavy Ion Research Centre (GSI) in Darmstadt, the German Cancer Research Centre and (more recently) the Rossendorf Research Centre. The decisive breakthrough came in the last four years. Since then about 100 patients have been treated with good results.
The new heavy ion therapy unit will integrate this method into routine clinical care. 1,000 patients a year will benefit from this new service. The unit will be operated in Heidelberg in conjunction with the Heavy Ion Research Centre (GSI), Darmstadt and will start work in 2007. The total cost is in the vicinity of 142 million marks.
Von Trotha: "The studies on heavy ion therapy represent an outstanding research achievement on an international level. It has been demonstrated beyond doubt that this technology is both safe and successful. The impressive results of this kind of radiation care for patients provide evidence supporting the hypothesis that heavy ion radiation is superior to traditional therapy." Research also stands to gain. The clinical studies bound up with the use of the new unit are expected to answer such questions as what kind of radiation or particle is most effective for different kinds of cancer. In addition, new insights are anticipated in connection with the optimum combination of operative methods, radiation and chemotherapy. The unit is designed to accommodate EU-wide research of a biological, physical/technological and clinical nature.
Please address any inquiries to:
Ministerium für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Kunst Baden-Württemberg
phone: 0711/279-3004, fax: -3081
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317