Innovation and Partnerships Office

Laser Accelerator-Driven Particle Brachytherapy 2014-175


  • Tumor treatment through brachytherapy


  • Turns radiation source on/off at will with no remaining radioactive isotopes
  • Permits instant feedback through radiation dosimeters
  • Provides real time updates through treatment planning software
  • Offers reduced damage to healthy/critical tissues


Berkeley Lab researchers have invented a new laser accelerator-driven electronic brachytherapy method with the potential for particle-based treatment of tumors and other diseases. This particle-based treatment uses micro-miniature laser-plasma based accelerators as the radiation source. The miniature accelerator is located at the tip of an optical fiber through which the laser power is delivered to a specially designed target. The compactness of the device permits the arthroscopic use of energetic electrons as a radiation beam source for treatments.

This is a leading-edge discovery for the treatment of large tumors that require megavolt level treatments and reduced damage to tissue, where the use of X-ray photons may not be appropriate or efficient. Aside from the benefits of using internal radiation, this new type of brachytherapy provides higher safety with an instant feedback system and with the control of the accelerators to turn the radiation source on and off at will without any residual radioactivity. This proves critical when important structures near tumors need to be protected from high doses of radiation.

Berkeley Lab researcher Wim Leemans led the development of compact laser powered particle accelerators and their application for electron-based brachytherapy technology geared towards the treatment of large tumors through internal radiation. Laser micro-miniature accelerators as high-energy particle sources offer the potential for arthroscopic treatment, i.e., to produce and deliver the electron beam in close proximity to the tumor. The technology will eventually include a treatment planning control system that operates through user input and instant feedback from radiation dosimeters, providing doctors and patients with a dynamic treatment plan that updates in real time.

DEVELOPMENT STAGE: Proven principle

STATUS: Issued Patent U. S. 8,878,464 B2. Available for licensing or collaborative research.