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70th anniversary of BNCT

February 15th is a special date: it can be seen as the birthday of BNCT. Why? Because on this day, 70 years ago, neutrons were used for the first time on a patient to fight brain cancer by neutron capture therapy. On 15th February 1951, at Brookhaven National Laboratory, in Long Island, New York, U.S.A., a patient with Glioblastoma Multiforme was treated with the neutrons of the local Graphite Research Reactor. The possibility to use neutron capture reactions to kill malignant cells had been first theorized by the American physicist Gordon Locher, just 4 years after the discovery of the neutron, in 1936. Later, in 1951, the use of borax as boron delivery agent to treat brain malignant tumors with neutron capture therapy was suggested by the physician William Sweet of Massachusetts General Hospital. Then, a collaboration between the Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston was initiated. This led to the first clinical trial in the world of what became known as BNCT, starting with the irradiation on February 15th at the Brookhaven Graphite Research Reactor. A little curiosity: this graphite-moderated, air-cooled reactor, in operation from 1950 to 1968, was the first reactor in the world built exclusively to carry out scientific research. So, this story boasts a double record! The 70 years following this special February 15th have seen a great evolution of BNCT, thanks to scientific research and technological progress, as well as to the efforts of the active community that gathers in our society.

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