The Particle Therapy MasterClass (PTMC), that was introduced in 2020, is a hands-on educational activity, addressing high-school students, which demonstrates direct applications of fundamental sciences, in particular physics, for the benefit of society, focusing on the treatment of cancer tumours with charged particles.
The PTMC is integrated in the International MasterClasses (IMC), the flagship project of IPPOG, the International Particle Physics Outreach Group, that gives the opportunity to high-school students to become scientists for a day, providing hands-on experiences with real experimental data. Every year, the IMC programme, performed by about 255 institutes from 55 countries is addressing about 15,000 high-school students; normally in-person events, but also in online mode, adapting to the covid-19 pandemic situation. The PTMC in 2021 had 6 online sessions involving 37 institutes from 20 countries and attracted more than 1500 high-school students. The PTMC 2022 and PTMC 2023 were performed in hybrid mode and attracted similar interest.
The PTMC in 2024 will also take place in hybrid mode, offering in-person but also online sessions, as proposed in the registration form that can be adapted depending on the interest and availability of participating institutes. Special sessions are included in the schedule to celebrate the International Day of Women in STEM, on the 11 February, and the International Day of Women, on the 8th of March.
The hands-on session of the PTMC allows students to familiarize with innovative research methods and techniques for treating difficult forms of cancer tumours. For planning the cancer treatment, a specialised open source software toolkit (matRad), developed by the German Cancer Research Center, DKFZ, in Heidelberg, is used, which may employ photons, protons or carbon ions, depending on the specific case to be treated.
The full-day PTMC Masterclass agenda includes a wide range of activities with the aim of relating the basic research, carried out in research laboratories, to applications for society and cancer treatment. The morning sessions include presentations and visits to experiments, also making use of videos or virtual visits to e.g. ALICE heavy-ion experiment at CERN or others. In the afternoon, the hands-on sessions allow students to prepare treatment planning for different cases. This is followed by a common video conference of all participants, moderated by GSI and DKFZ specialists. Students have the opportunity to discuss their results and to enjoy virtual visits to Particle Therapy sites (e.g. CNAO ion therapy facility in Italy, or GSI research centre in Germany, where carbon-ion therapy was pioneered in Europe).
Among the aims of the PTMC is to highlight the importance of Physics, and STEM in general, for medical applications, and the society at large, but also to make students aware of career and job opportunities in emerging fields, where, often, there is lack of specialised personnel.
For an overview of the PTMC project see the recordings of a presentation. More information can be found on the web page of PTMC. An example of the matRad research toolkit demonstrates the basic steps, guiding students for planning cancer tumour treatment.
In the PTMC past editions several countries from the SEE region participated, as also seen in the respective PTMC2021 programme, PTMC2022 programme, PTMC2023 programme: the PTMC 2024 programme includes already 43 registration, from around the world, including the following SEEIIST member states: Albania, BiH, Bulgaria, Greece, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Slovenia.
The PTMC is organised by GSI, CERN, DKFZ, with the support of the EU-funded project HITRIplus, with contributions from the European ion therapy centres and of volunteers from many participating institutes around the world. For the PTMC 2024, the assistants of the PTMC core team are Masters and PhD students that come from Albania, Greece, Montenegro, and North Macedonia; and more contributors are welcomed!