Physics of Radiation Therapy

  • Robert J. Shalek
Part of the Cancer book series (C, volume 6)


Within 6 months after the discovery of X-rays in November 1895 by Roentgen, efforts were made to treat cancer as well as other diseases by the new rays (Brecher and Brecher, 1969). Similarly, radium was tried in the treatment of cancer and other conditions within 3 years after its discovery by Madame Curie in 1898 (Hilaris, 1975). This collaboration among medicine, science, and technology has continued essentially without interruption since. There is probably no way to measure the contribution of physics and engineering to the slow but continued improvement of cure rates in cancer therapy; however, there can be no doubt about the significance of that collaboration. These efforts have resulted in improved sources of ionizing radiation, the definition and measurement of radiation quantity and quality, and the elaboration of systems of radiation dose calculation which permit a knowledgeable application of ionizing radiation to different regions of patients of different sizes and shapes. Development of external-beam radiation treatment initiated by the discovery of X-rays and development of intracavitary and interstitial treatment initiated by the discovery of radium continue to this day.


Linear Energy Transfer Relative Biological Effectiveness Tumor Control Probability Field Instrument Percent Depth Dose 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert J. Shalek
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhysicsUniversity of Texas System Cancer CenterHoustonUSA

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