NARILIS among key partners of INSPIRE, a European project that aims at sharing Proton Beam Therapy research

Proton beam therapy (PBT) is a new type of advanced radiotherapy capable of delivering a targeted dose of radiation to the tumor while causing minimal damage to the surrounding healthy tissue. In recent years there has been a huge investment in PBT across Europe and eleven countries now either have PBT in operation or are developing this capability. In addition, the two largest manufactures of PBT equipment (IBA and Varian) have based their manufacturing in Europe.

The INfraStructure in Proton International REsearch (INSPIRE) project received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. The project, running from March 2018 till end February 2022, brings together 17 European centers to form the first specialized research infrastructure for PBT.

Among INPIRE partners are the radiobiology team of NARILIS led by Prof. Anne-Catherine Heuskin (LARN, Physics Department, UNamur), Prof. Stéphane Lucas (LARN, Physics Department, UNamur) and Prof. Carine Michiels (URBC, Biology Department, UNamur). The team provides a substantial contribution to the project by sharing its know-how and expertise in studying the potential of gold nanoparticles to make tumor cells more sensitive to radiation therapy. In vitro experiments conducted by former PhD student Dr. Sébastien Penninckx showed that gold nanoparticles decrease the activity of thioredoxin reductase (TrxR), a detoxification enzyme, explaining their radiosensitization effect (Penninckx et al., 2018 ; Penninckx et al. 2019). More recently, in vivo experiments are being carried out by postdoctoral researcher Dr. Ewa Biela to prove that this enzyme can be a target for nanoparticles not only in cell culture, but also in living tumors.

INSPIRE allows researchers from across Europe to access research rooms in clinical proton beam therapy centers. Its networking activities are aimed at facilitating knowledge exchange and sharing best research practice across Europe. Furthermore, Inspire project is also intended to provide training for the next generation of researchers in this field.

Discover Inspire Project Website

Contact: Prof. Anne-Catherine Heuskin