The usual method for estimating the risk from exposure to neutrons uses the concept of relative biological effectiveness (RBE) compared with the risk from photons, which is better known. RBE has been evaluated using cellular and animal models. But this causes difficulties in applying the concept to humans. The ANDANTE project takes a new approach using three different disciplines in parallel: Physics: a track structure model is used to contrast the patterns of damage to cellular macro-molecules from neutrons compared with photons. The simulations reproduce the same energy spectra as are used in the other two approaches. Stem cell radiobiology: stem cells from thyroid, salivary gland and breast tissue are given well characterised exposures to neutrons and photons. A number of endpoints are used to estimate the relative risk of damage from neutrons compared with photons. Irradiated cells will also be transplanted into mice to investigate the progression of the initial radiation effects in stem cells into tumours in a physiological environment.
Epidemiology: the relative incidence rates of second cancers of the thyroid, salivary gland and breast following paediatric radiotherapy (conventional radiotherapy for photons and proton therapy for neutrons) are investigated in a pilot single-institution study, exploring the possible design of a multi-institution prospective study comparing the long-term out-of-field and in-field effects of scanned and scattered protons. The results will be used to validate an RBE-based risk model developed by the project, and validate the corresponding RBE values.
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