- The release of energy (and thus the destruction of cells) is done selectively, targeting only cancer cells. The damage incurred in the body on initial penetration is relatively small and significant release of energy is confined only to the vicinity where the cancer is located (a phenomenon referred to as the Bragg Peak). This maximizes the destruction of cancerous tissues while minimizing collateral effects on healthy tissues
- The beam of hadronic particles remains collimated as it penetrates the biological material. The high collimation of the beams of hadrons further minimizes damage to healthy tissues
- The energy release mechanism for hadrontherapy causes a large amount of breaks on the chemical links present in biological macromolecules, especially DNA. The latter has the ability to repair itself, but if the number of broken links is excesive it loses its function of self-reparation and the cells remain inactive and die. In conventional radiotherapy the DNA damage is modest; on the contrary, in the hadrontherapy with carbon ions the number of breaks allows the destruction even of tumors resistant to conventional therapy
- a proton and / or ion accelerator (such as the circular accelerator or synchrotron) producing a number of particle beams
- a system for transporting the beam in the treatment room
- a procedure for precisely positioning the patient for treatment
- complete control of the energy to be released i.e. the dose
- a three-dimensional customized patient treatment system obtained by integrating diagnostic imaging results (CT, MRI, PET).
The National Centre of Oncological Hadrontherapy (CNAO), located in Pavia, is the first Centre of Hadrontherapy in Italy provided with a beam able to irradiate patients with protons or carbon ions for the treatment of radioresistant tumors.