Streamlining the path from physics to medicine


We all know them: the well-established cases of knowledge transfer from physics to medicine in which CERN has played an important role. From technology for PET scanners to dedicated accelerator designs for cancer therapy, we have contributed a lot over the years. But until recently, the pathway has been a little ad hoc, depending largely on enthusiastic individuals. That’s about to change.

CERN’s commitment to formalising the transfer of knowledge to the field of medicine has been growing over recent years. Notable successes are the establishment of a new conference series, ICTR-PHE, that brings together medical practitioners and members of the physics community, and the establishment of cancer therapy centres like CNAO in Italy and MedAustron in Austria, built on CERN accelerator technology. These are important, but there’s still more that we can and should do.

To this end, we’ve created a new Office for CERN Medical Applications, whose first head will be Steve Myers. The aim is for CERN to become established as an important facilitator of medical physics in Europe, and this will be achieved through a number of actions. The new office will bring all the diverse medical physics activities at CERN together under a single roof, ensuring that our efforts are optimised. It will work to develop a CERN biomedical facility using the LEIR storage ring, suitably adapted with external funding. It will increase the use of ISOLDE in developing isotopes for clinical trials, and work to develop on-going accelerator, detector and information technologies in ways that will benefit medicine. Last but not least, it will promote networking with other laboratories engaged in the field of medical applications.

Of course, this is not something that we can do alone, so Steve’s first task in the role will be to assemble an international advisory committee of experts in all relevant fields of particle physics and medicine. When it comes to medical applications, the field of particle physics has considerable laurels, but it’s important not to rest on them. This new initiative will ensure that CERN is doing its bit to make the return to society through medicine even better.