OMA Schools

Treating Cancer with Particle Accelerators - Public lecture

by Simon Jolly (University College London)

Muspratt Lecture Theatre, Chadwick Building (University of Liverpool)

Muspratt Lecture Theatre, Chadwick Building

University of Liverpool

Muspratt Lecture Theatre

Have you ever wondered what connects the Large Hadron Collider to cancer treatment? Did you know that more than half of the world’s particle accelerators are used not for fundamental physics research but in cancer treatment and other branches of medicine? In this talk Dr. Simon Jolly from the University College London will introduce some of the ways that particle accelerators are used in cancer treatment, from the most common radiotherapy gantries to the more advanced technology needed for proton beam therapy. Along the way he will talk about how we use beams of radiation to treat cancer effectively and why the machines needed for proton beam therapy are so large and complex, along with a sneak peak at the NHS’ new proton beam therapy facilities.


Dr Simon Jolly – leader of the proton therapy research group within High Energy Physics at the University College London.

His main research interests lie in applications of particle accelerators, especially their use for proton therapy. The NHS is currently building 2 proton therapy facilities in London and Manchester: to complement the existing ocular facility at the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre. Proton therapy is a more advanced form of radiotherapy that uses protons in place of X-ray photons: this means that tumours can be treated with much greater precision and significantly less damage to the surrounding tissue.   Dr. Jolly’s research focuses on high precision detectors for proton beam Quality Assurance to ensure the treatment is delivered safely.

He is also a member of the international AWAKE collaboration that is seeking to develop proton driven plasma wakefield accelerators. Conventional accelerators are limited in how quickly a particle beam can be accelerated: beyond a certain point, the only way of making higher energy accelerators is to make them larger. However, it has been shown that plasmas can support electric fields several orders of magnitude higher than conventional accelerators. By using a proton beam to drive a wakefield within a plasma, this wakefield can in turn accelerate an electron beam to high energies in extremely short distances. The AWAKE experiment will use a 400GeV proton beam from the CERN SPS accelerator to drive a wakefield within a Rubidium plasma cell and accelerate electrons. Dr Jolly leads the development of the AWAKE spectrometer to measure the energy of these plasma accelerated electrons.


Registration is free of charge.

Refreshments will be provided.