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Proton Microbeam and Ion Beam Therapy

The Division of Translational Radiation Sciences (DTRS) is focused on the design of new cancer treatment strategies using scanned particle beams, with an aim to reduce the severity of side effects for patients receiving radiotherapy.


Elizabeth Balcer-Kubiczek, PhD
Associate Professor


This research is made possible by the availability of our >$200 million, state-of-the-art Maryland Proton Treatment Center, located adjacent to the School of Medicine campus and 1 block from DTRS. Our research develops experimental and computational tools that allow optimization and delivery of proton therapy and carbon-ion therapy in ways that can reduce biological damage to healthy tissue near cancer targets.

Investigators leading the Division’s Proton Microbeam Therapy research are experienced with experimental use of high-energy particle beams of protons and carbon ions and, more recently, with helium ions. Complementary to this work is the regular incorporation of high-performance computing and Monte Carlo simulations of radiation transport, computational modeling of biological response of tissues to ion irradiation, and the testing of novel particle therapies in small animals prior to initiating human trials. Investigators within the division collaborate with researchers around the country to explore the potential of microbeams and minibeams of light-ion radiation to reduce neurologic damage and side effects after brain cancer therapy. 

The division’s research has contributed advanced understanding and applications in:

  • Electron conformal therapy;
  • Scanned carbon ion therapy for moving tumors;
  • Biophysical modeling to predict second cancer risks after ion beam therapy;
  • Orthovoltage minibeam therapy as a potential low-cost and portable therapy solution for low-and middle-income countries;
  • Minibeam therapy with protons and light ions to reduce neurologic side effects of radiation for patients with brain cancer;
  • Radiation-induced carcinogenesis;
  • Effects of neutrons and HZE particles;
  • Health hazards of nonionizing electromagnetic radiations and ultrasound; and
  • Low dose–rate radiation physics and biology of X-rays and neutrons.

Looking forward, the division seeks to exploit the biophysical aspects of radiation response after ion therapy to further reduce side effects for cancer patients. An overarching strategy is to combine the basic science teams of physics, biology, and computer science with the experience of medical practitioners to break new ground in the emerging field of particle therapy.