Neutron-Induced Carcinogenic Effects

Part of the original MPU neutron research team with the Nested Neutron Spectrometer. Left to right: Robert Maglieri, Michael Evans, John Kildea, Angel Licea


Neutrons that are generated as secondary, by-product, radiation during high-energy (> 10 MeV) photon-beam or proton-beam radiation therapy, cannot be shielded and, consequently, exposed patients are susceptible to radio-carcinogenesis. This long-term risk is well known and generally accepted, although poorly understood. Efforts currently underway within the Canadian radiation oncology and medical physics communities to introduce proton beam radiotherapy into Canada are bringing the issue into focus. Pediatric patients who are considered the main beneficiaries of proton therapy are also the most at risk for second cancers resulting from the unavoidable whole body dose of secondary radiation that arises in large part from neutrons.

The Neutron-Induced Carcinogenic Effects (NICE) research group, led by Dr. John Kildea, aims to improve our understanding of the biophysical effects surrounding neutron dose deposition in human tissue. Our group is a recently-formed collaboration between McGill University, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) and Detec Inc. We are building upon the neutron research carried out at the MPU between 2012 and 2015 involving M.Sc. students Rafael Khatchadourian and Robert Maglieri.

The NICE research study will investigate neutron carcinogenesis through a combination of neutron spectral measurements, Monte Carlo modelling, track structure simulations and radio-biological experiments. Our approach is similar to that of the European ANDANTE project but it underpinned by our neutron spectral measurement technique using the Nested Neutron Spectrometer and CNL's world-class radio-biological facilities at Chalk River.


A graphical summary of the research objectives of the NICE project. For details, please see our group's webpage


Robert Maglieri's paper on our new measurement technique for neutron spectra in radiotherapy is available here. The paper was selected for the Editor's Picks section of the Journal of Medical Physics in November 2015.

For more information about the NICE research group including photos and links to recent presentations and publications, please see our webpage.

Some members of the MPU and CNL teams during a visit to CNL in September, 2015

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