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University of Iowa Wins $115 Million Grant from NASA to Develop Satellites for Studying Radiation Created by the Sun

The NASA grant will underwrite development of satellites expected to be launched within the next three years

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University of Iowa, Radiation, Sun
FILE - Tourists take pictures of a NASA sign at the Kennedy Space Center visitors complex in Cape Canaveral, Florida, April 14, 2010. VOA

A University of Iowa team has won a $115 million grant to develop satellites for studying a system of radiation created by the sun — “space weather.”

The NASA grant will underwrite development of satellites expected to be launched within the next three years with more satellites developed by Southwest Research Institute scientists.

University of Iowa, Radiation, Sun
A University of Iowa team has won a $115 million grant to develop satellites. Pixabay

The Iowa City Press-Enterprise reports that the satellites are designed to gather data on how the sun creates solar wind and how Earth responds to the solar wind. NASA scientists say goal is to understand what drives space weather so humans can mitigate any harmful effects.

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NASA official Nicky Fox says solar particles generated by the sun can interfere with undersea cables, power grids, radio communications and other electronic equipment. (VOA)

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Cancer Patients must Opt for Proton Therapy to Reduce Side Effects of Chemotherapy

Proton therapy lowers risk of side effects in cancer

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Cancer
A proton therapy may help in reducing the side effects of cancer treatment. Pixabay

Proton therapy leads to significantly lower risk of side effects for cancer patients when compared with traditional radiation, researchers have found.

For the findings, published in the journal JAMA Oncology, researchers from University of Pennsylvania analysed if the cancer patients going through radiation therapy alongside chemotherapy faced severe side effects in a span of 90 days.

They found proton therapy reduces the relative risk of these side effects by two-thirds.

Proton Therapy cancer
Proton therapy has a few key differences from traditional photon radiation. (Representation Image). Pixabay

“This is exciting because it shows that proton therapy offers a way for us to reduce the serious side effects of chemo-radiation and improve patient health and wellbeing without sacrificing the effectiveness of the therapy,” said the study’s lead author Brian Baumann from the University of Pennsylvania in the US.

Proton therapy has a few key differences from traditional photon radiation.

Photon radiation typically uses multiple x-ray beams to deliver radiation to the tumour target but unavoidably deposits radiation in the normal tissues beyond the target, potentially damaging those tissues as the beam exits the body.

For this study, researchers evaluated side effects including pain or difficulty swallowing, difficulty breathing, nausea, or diarrhea, among others.

Researchers focused on grade-three effects or higher, defined as side effects severe enough for patients to be hospitalised.

They evaluated data on 1,483 cancer patients receiving radiation and chemotherapy at the same time.

Of these, 391 patients received proton therapy, while 1,092 underwent photon treatment.

All patients had non-metastatic cancer and were undergoing treatment intended to be curative.

Cancer patients
A proton therapy can help cancer patients by reducing the side effects of chemo-radiation. Pixabay

Patients with brain cancer, head and neck cancer, lung cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, and gynecologic cancer treated with concurrent chemo-radiation were included.

The primary outcome was whether or not patients experienced adverse side effects that were grade-three or higher within 90 days of treatment.

In the proton group, only 11.5 per cent of patients (45) did, compared to 27.6 per cent of patients (301) in the photon group.

A weighted analysis of both patient groups, which controlled for other factors that may have led to differences between the patient groups, found that the relative risk of a severe toxicity was two-thirds lower for proton patients compared to photon patients.

Importantly, overall survival and disease-free survival were similar between the two groups, suggesting that the reduction in toxicity seen with proton therapy did not come at the cost of reduced effectiveness.

Researchers said these results hint at the promise of proton therapy as a way to deliver intensified systemic therapy and/or higher dose radiation therapy more safely, which could improve survival outcomes.

In fact, data showed that while older patients with more comorbidities were more likely to receive proton therapy, they experienced fewer side effects, the researchers said.

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“This tells us proton therapy may allow older patients to receive the most effective combined treatments, and that older, sicker patients can more safely be included in clinical trials that use proton therapy,” Baumann said. (IANS)