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BNCT treatments take place in VTT’s research reactor



New results published in the Int. Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics in August 2007 on BNCT (Boron Neutron Capture Therapy) treatments of patients, carried out in Finland, indicate that BNCT is an effective treatment for head and neck cancer. The treatments are carried out in cooperation between Boneca Oy, VTT and the Helsinki University Central Hospital’s Department of Oncology in a treatment station in VTT's research reactor in Espoo. The results of the treatments are presented in the web site of Boneca Oy.

VTT produces the neutron radiation required for the treatment by its research reactor, FiR 1, which has been converted into a top level BNCT facility. Its power output is 250 kW. VTT has developed FLUENTAL™ neutron moderator material for the BNCT treatment station. The FLUENTAL carrier optimises the energy of the neutrons to an efficient and safe level. The BNCT technology developed by VTT as well as the FLUENTAL moderator are used also in other BNCT projects.


The history of VTT’s research reactor shows how VTT adjusts its technologies with the changes of the markets.


Finland's first nuclear reactor was built in Espoo. It reached first criticality on 27 March 1962. The FiR 1 reactor first served as a research and teaching reactor in the field of nuclear technology. It was also used for production of isotopes. The reactor's original thermal power output was raised from 100 kW to 250 kW.


The FiR 1 reactor has belonged to and operated by VTT since 1972. Geological Survey of Finland (GTK) utilised VTT's expertise in neutron activation analysis in its survey of Finnish soils. Service analyses connected with ore prospecting were offered to companies.


Radiopharmaceutical expertise was developed for the treatment of rheumatism and bone marrow cancer. This expertise gave rise to one of VTT's first spin-off companies: MAP Medical Technologies (Tikkakoski). At first, MAP's radiopharmaceutical drugs were used to treat patients; at present, the products are mainly connected with diagnostic imaging of tissues and tumours. A time-of-flight diffractometer device was developed for structural analysis (such as DNA).

The main part of radioactive isotopes produced in the reactor are still used by the industry; for example by one of VTT’s spin-off companies, Indmeas Oy.


VTT developed the first low-power reactor operating at epithermal neutron energies to be used for the treatment of intracranial tumours. Epithermal neutron beam is able to penetrate bone and reach the cancerous tissue. VTT developed the FLUENTAL™ carrier for BNCT, making highly effective neutron beams possible. Dosimetric measurements, radiobiological examinations, radiation dose calculations and development of the boron carrier took place in cooperation with various research partners. Construction of a treatment station was carried out and VTT's research reactor was converted into a BNCT treatment station for the treatment of intracranial tumours. The preclinical research phase (dosimetric measurements, measurement of radiation doses, radiobiological research and development of the boron carrier) was carried through in a project coordinated by the HYKS Institute together with different research partners such as the University of Helsinki, the Helsinki University Central Hospital and the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority STUK. Radtek Oy was established to finance the technical realisation of the treatment station. NC-Hoito Oy was established to organise the operation of the treatment station. The Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority authorised NC-Hoito Oy to commence BNCT treatments, and the Helsinki University Central Hospital's ethics committee and the National Agency for Medicines subsequently approved the commencement of clinical research.

The first patient was treated in 1999. The Finnish BNCT project was funded by VTT, the Helsinki University Central Hospital, Clinical Research Institute Helsinki University Central Hospital, University of Helsinki, the Academy of Finland, the National Technology Agency Tekes and the European Union.

2000 and onwards

Boneca Oy signed framework agreements with the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa HUS and VTT on the development of BNCT treatments, and treatment collaboration with the Helsinki University Central Hospital's Department of Oncology begins. Treatment was extended from brain tumours to head and neck cancer as well. Clinical auditing of the treatment operations were carried out in 2005. The first results of the clinical research programme were published in August 2007.

BNCT treatments as well as BNCT teaching and research activities are the most important motive to keep up the reactor. The production of industrial isotopes is significant nationally. The Technical University of Helsinki and the Technical University of Lappeenranta use the FiR 1 reactor in teaching of nuclear technique. It is also used for nuclear safety teaching in Finland, Sweden and of IAEA.

Photo: BNCT treatment station



More information

Seppo Vuori
Responsible Manager of VTT´s Research Reactor
+358 20 722 5067