Boron Neutron Capture Therapy (BNCT) is a non-invasive therapeutic technique for treating invasive malignant tumours.

It relies on the use of neutrons for the generation of energetic alpha particles to destroy cells within the tumour, but not in the surrounding tissue.

Recent breakthroughs in accelerator technologies are enabling wider use of this very targeted technique – and the IAEA and Japan’s Okayama University have now signed an agreement that provides a three-year framework for enhanced cooperation in this area.

Patients undergoing BNCT are given a boron-based reagent, often injected intravenously, which accumulates in cancer cells.

When a stable boron isotope (boron-10) of the reagent is hit by a beam of neutrons in the cancer cells, it captures neutrons, which causes a nuclear reaction and creation of energetic helium (alpha particle) and lithium nuclei.

The nuclei deposit their energy within the tumour cell, causing damage and cell death.

The tumour is targeted by selectively introducing the boron reagent into tumour cells, and not by aiming the beam at the cells, as in other radiation therapies, in which healthy tissue still may get damaged as a result.

The high biological effectiveness of this procedure and the precisely targeted cell damage are major advantages of BNCT in clinical therapy.

Read more in the IAEA Press Release.