Starting from 2008, with the demonstration of the first laser-plasma electron accelerator in Italy , the ILIL laboratory of CNR-INO in Pisa has started a research activity on the biomedical applications of electron beams, with particular reference to medical diagnosis and oncological radiotherapy. These studies exploit the ultrashort pulse duration and the high instantaneous dose rate from ionizing radiation generated by laser-plasma sources, the highest obtainable today from a compact radiation generator. The studies conducted so far, in collaboration with the CNR Institute of Clinical Physiology, the Unit of “Fisica Sanitaria” of the University Hospital in Pisa and other groups with strong expertise in the biomedical field, have enabled extensive calibration the source for pre-clinical uses and have confirmed its radiobiological effectiveness  with in vitro studies .
These studies motivated the upgrade of the ILIL laser system which, starting from 2018, is operational  for the production of high energy electron beams, known in the bio-medical field as Very High Energy Electrons (VHEE) . Our recent measurements show  the accurate delivery, in depth, of radiation at high dose rate, using very high energy electron beams produced with the newly developed laser-plasma accelerator.
These results are contributing to pave the way for new and more effective radiotherapy protocols, also based on the so-called “FLASH effect” , which provides for the administration of the therapeutic dose in a single session and in a very short time and would lead to equivalent effects on the tumor and less damage to healthy tissues .
In this context, the Laboratory has conceived a pre-clinical research program aimed at demonstrating the possibility of administering therapeutic doses of VHEE in the FLASH modality. Achieving this goal is a prerequisite for the launch of a clinical trial to be completed by 2025.
The pre-clinical phase, already funded within the ELI-ITALY project (Extreme Light Infrastructure, ITALY), is currently underway  and is aimed to characterize the VHEE beam from a dosimetric point of view and to qualify the radiobiological effectiveness. At the same time, the design of a second generation VHEE source prototype is underway, capable of responding to the needs for the future administration of therapy in a hospital environment
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