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News Release

HOUSTON MEETING HIGHLIGHTS: Physics and the Future of Medicine
American Association of Physicists in Medicine Meeting, July 27 to July 31

July 29, 2008 -- This week in Houston, thousands of scientists and health professionals will meet at the 50th meeting of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM), the largest association of medical physicists in the world. There they are presenting the latest technologies for imaging and treating diseases like cancer and discuss the safety, ethical, and regulatory issues facing the field today.

Almost all the hospitals in the United States today benefit from the work of medical physicists. They help diagnose illness by designing and implementing new and better ways of imaging the human body. They create treatment strategies for fighting cancer and other diseases. They also seek to reduce the risk to people undergoing these treatments.

The Houston area has a large number of medical physicists because of the concentration of universities and hospitals in the area, including The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, which is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the top hospital in the nation for cancer care.

M.D. Anderson has a large facility dedicated to proton therapy -- a technique that pulses powerful protons (a constituent of atomic nuclei) into tumors, killing the cancer cells therein. The facility began treating patients in 2006 and now treats about 70 people a day. Many of the medical physicists making presentations at AAPM work at the proton therapy facility and will be presenting basic and clinical research on how they optimize proton therapy.

Other presentations will focus on research into developing and applying new technologies for visualizing the body's processes at the molecular and cellular levels and for treating diseases. M.D. Anderson Cancer Center already has a number of medical physicists who are leaders in this research, and it is likely to grow in the future. M.D. Anderson is building a brand-new imaging research center, called the Center for Advanced Biomedical Imaging Research, in collaboration with The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, GE Healthcare, and the Texas Enterprise Fund.

This release highlights some of the research being presented at the AAPM meeting by Houston-area medical physicists. Journalists are invited to cover the AAPM meeting in person or remotely. Additional news releases will detail other specific meeting highlights. All news releases will be hosted on the AAPM website (see link below).

  1. MODIFYING RADIATION THERAPY MACHINES WILL BENEFIT PEOPLE WITH SMALL TUMORS

    "...The risk that exposure to stray radiation during cancer therapy will cause secondary malignancies is small -- it should never deter one from following one's doctor's advice and undergoing radiation therapy for the treatment of cancer. Nevertheless, stray radiation as a potential side effect should always be minimized, and a team of researchers at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center is exploring ways to reduce stray radiation, and the risk it brings, by modifying the radiation delivery machine..."
    FULL DETAILS: Read them here.

  2. MIXED BEAM THERAPY MAY OFFER ADVANTAGES FOR TREATMENT OF SHALLOW TUMORS

    "...Recent work by team of researchers from M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, the Mayo Clinic, and Louisiana State University may bring clinicians closer to the use of mixed beam therapy, which would combine electron and x-ray beams and improve therapeutic outcomes in people with shallow tumors..."
    FULL DETAILS: Read them here.

  3. GOLD NANOSHELLS HELP VISIBLY HEAT AND DESTROY CANCER

    "... Most cancer tumors that have clear borders and are well defined have traditionally been treated successfully by surgical removal. But not all cancers respond to conventional surgery. More importantly, conventional surgery brings risks of complications and long recovery periods that can negatively impact a person's quality of life. To overcome these treatment limits, a group of researchers based at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, turned to lasers and nanotechnology..."
    FULL DETAILS: Read them here.

  4. GUIDING LASERS TO THEIR TARGET

    "...Like most treatments, laser therapy can benefit from image guidance. A Houston-based company has developed an MRI-guided system that has been tested and is now FDA-approved..."
    FULL DETAILS: Read them here.

  5. RESEARCHERS QUANTIFY SECONDARY RISKS OF PROTON THERAPY

    "... Researchers from M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and the Georgia Institute of Technology have completed a study that will help people considering proton therapy for cancer treatment and the physicians who treat them..."
    FULL DETAILS: Read them here.

  6. PHYSICISTS PROVIDE "GUIDING HANDS" FOR PROTON THERAPY

    "... While physicians manage the treatment of people, behind the scenes, proton physicists play a crucial role, providing support and guidelines for treatment planning for calculation of dose distributions, measurements of radiation delivery, measurements of proton beam data, quality assurance of all measuring equipment and of the proton accelerator, and calibration of proton beams, all essential to successful treatment outcomes...."
    FULL DETAILS: Read them here.

  7. NOVEL INSTRUMENT MAY IMPROVE UPON THE SAFETY AND EFFECTIVENESS OF CERVICAL CANCER BRACHYTHERAPY TREATMENTS

    "...To treat cervical cancer, clinicians apply a high dose of radiation directly to diseased tissues, which may be administered using a device called an intracavitary brachytherapy applicator. Researchers at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center have designed a new applicator made out of special materials that makes it compatible with MRIs, and features a movable shield that both reduces the exposure of healthy tissues to radiation and permits the use of CT and MRI scans..."
    FULL DETAILS: Read them here.
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RELATED LINKS

HOW TO COVER THE MEETING

Reporters who would like to cover the conference remotely will find releases and articles on the Virtual Press Room highlighting many of the interesting and important talks presented at the meeting. Even if you can't make it to Houston, the Virtual Press Room will make it possible to write stories about the meeting from your desk.

ABOUT AAPM

The American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) is a scientific, educational, and professional nonprofit organization whose mission is to advance the application of physics to the diagnosis and treatment of human disease. The association encourages innovative research and development, helps disseminate scientific and technical information, fosters the education and professional development of medical physicists, and promotes the highest quality medical services for patients. In 2008, AAPM will celebrate its 50th year of serving patients, physicians, and physicists. Please visit the association's Web site at http://www.aapm.org/.

ABOUT AIP

Headquartered in College Park, MD., the American Institute of Physics is a not-for-profit membership corporation chartered in New York State in 1931 for the purpose of promoting the advancement and diffusion of the knowledge of physics and its application to human welfare.

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Media contacts:

Jason Socrates Bardi, American Institute of Physics,
301-209-3091 (office) 858-775-4080 (cell)
jbardi@aip.org

Jeff Limmer, AAPM Media Relations Subcommittee Chair
jeffl@aspirus.org