BNCT Project

​ What is BNCT?

BNCT, or Boron Neutron Capture Therapy, is a form of radiation therapy that biologically targets cancer cells. It works by injecting patients with a drug carrying a boron compound designed to seek out cancerous growths.

Following this, patients receive neutron radiation localised around the tumour being treated. This causes the boron atoms absorbed by the cancer cells to break down, killing the cells with the release of the resulting localised high-energy particles.

This treatment does not affect healthy tissue. One of the main benefits of this technique is the ability to deliver the required radiation dose in only a couple of treatment sessions.

BNCT treatment can also be combined with more conventional courses of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

The project so far

In 2016, HUS Helsinki University Hospital and Neutron Therapeutics signed a contract
for delivery of the world's first hospital-based BNCT device in Helsinki. For their part, HUS is responsible for building the facility and eventually delivering the treatments, whereas Neutron Therapeutics is supplying the neutron source.

The project facilities are currently nearly finished and they will be handed over to HUS in April. The equipment testing phase is underway and the NuBeam accelerator has produced neutrons for the first time as well. The Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority has inspected the facilities while full neutron production was active and verified them to be safe for the operating staff. 

The schedule for the testing phase is dependent on a decision regarding permission to commence treatments. This is yet to be officially granted by the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority in Finland. It is presently thought that treatments for research purposes will get underway in autumn 2019.

Initial treatments and patient groups

The first cohort of patients will consist of those presenting with localised and reoccurring cancerous tumours in the head and neck. In addition to these parts of the body, the technique can also be used to treat other tumours in which the required levels of boron can accumulate and the location of which are suitable for treatment with BCNT.

Between 1999 and 2012, HUS delivered BNCT treatments using the research reactor housed at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland in Otaniemi. The results of these treatments were promising. Owing to the closure of the research reactor, however, the BNCT treatments had to cease.

The current move to offer BNCT treatments using a brand new device only serves to strengthen the position of HUS Helsinki University Hospital as a world-leader in the field of research and development relating to cancer care. Indeed, with this initiative, HUS will become the leading research and development centre for BNCT treatments.

Page updated 12.6.2019