The OMA project: delivering healthcare benefits using particle accelerators

The biggest challenges in science require an international team working and problem solving. It’s especially true in the healthcare sector, where multidisciplinary skills are essential to translate technological advances into genuine improvements in patient care.

The University of Liverpool leads the Optimization of Medical Accelerators (OMA) project that synergises researchers from across Europe to optimise the operation of medical devices to benefit cancer patient outcomes. Medical accelerators provide treatments to cancer patients in the form of radiotherapy, and proton and ion beam therapy promise specific advantages over other treatment techniques.


Delivering benefits and training the generation of researchers

“OMA is a bit special,” says Professor Carsten Welsch, who heads up the project from the Department of Physics at the University of Liverpool, which he also leads. “The underpinning idea is to work together to get the best from universities, research centres and industry to realise the best research and training.”

The project works on everything from optimising clinical facilities to measuring treatment beams, in-situ imaging of the ion beam working in the patient to developing suitable control software. “All these research challenges were the motivation behind OMA,” says Welsch.

There are many challenges to address across the sector. Children with brain cancer in the UK must currently travel to countries like Germany or the Czech Republic for suitable treatment, which can lead to very significant treatment costs. “That landscape is changing very significantly now with new two new NHS centres being established in the UK, in addition to several private centres, that will all be ready around 2020. That will make the treatment available to many more patients in the future,” Welsch explains.

Building on previous work

To achieve its research goals, OMA directly builds on a decade of success in three previous research and training networks in allied areas: DITANET that focused on beam diagnostics, oPAC for optimising different types of particle accelerators, and LA3NET for laser applications at accelerators which were all coordinated by the University of Liverpool. Local expertise is also utilised, through collaboration with other partners from The Cockcroft Institute of Accelerator Science and Technology based on the campus of Daresbury Laboratory in Cheshire.

The OMA network contains an international consortium of more than 30 partner organisations for 15 early-careers researchers, all based at different institutions across Europe. They will all follow a broad and interdisciplinary training programme consisting of expert workshops, international Schools, cross-sector secondments and high-profile conferences, all organised by the University of Liverpool.

The OMA project is funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 675265.

To find out more about OMA and related projects contact Professor Carsten Welsch