Special investment in training for hospital physicists

The government is making a special investment in the training of medical physicists, of which Medical Radiation Physics at Fysikum is one of the four educational sites in Sweden. Today, the management consists of three women: Iuliana Toma-Dasu, Emely Kjellsson Lindblom and Marta Lazzeroni. Medical Radiation Physics is a broad and complex field of research in which radiation physics is applied to medicine and biology.

Medical Radiation Physics Division: Iuliana Toma-Dasu, Marta Lazzeroni, Emely Kjellsson Lindblom
Medical Radiation Physics Division: Iuliana Toma-Dasu, Marta Lazzeroni, Emely Kjellsson Lindblom

The professional education to become a medical physicist is offered in Sweden at only four universities, but is crucial for all cancer care involving radiation. As half of all cancer patients world-wide are treated with some form of radiation therapy, ensuring the necessary competence in medical radiation physics is a concern on national level. The government is therefore making a special effort to financially secure the involvement of the regions in the training. SEK 3 million is proposed for 2023 and SEK 6 million is planned from 2024 to strengthen the training.
"There are four universities providing training for medical physicists in Stockholm, Gothenburg, Lund and Umeå. It is a professional training similar to medical and dental training. With the funds granted, we have received an important signal from the government about the importance of ensuring that the training can be delivered with the same high quality at all universities," say Iuliana Toma-Dasu and Emely Kjellsson Lindblom.

The first radiotherapy treatment for a cancer patient

The first radiotherapy treatment of a cancer patient in Sweden took place in 1899 at the Stenbecks Institute in Stockholm, just a few years after Röntgen's discovery of "a new kind of rays" in 1895. The first oncology clinic in Sweden was the Radiumhemmet, established in 1910 and since 1938 it has been part of the Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm. After physicist Rolf Sievert graduated from Uppsala University in 1919, he offered the radiologists responsible for radiation treatment a collaboration to solve the physical challenges of radiotherapy. It soon became clear that trained physicists were an important part of the clinical team, and in 1924 Rolf Sievert became head of the Radiumhemmet physics laboratory.

Three women head the Medical Radiation Physics Department at the Physics Department

The three are Iuliana Toma-Dasu, Emely Kjellsson Lindblom and Marta Lazzeroni.

Iuliana Toma-Dasu is Professor of Medical Radiation Physics and Head of the Division of Medical Radiation Physics (MSF) at Stockholm University, which is also affiliated to the Department of Oncology and Pathology at Karolinska Institutet.
"My research spans over a rather wide range of topics from the therapeutic use of radiation to radioprotection. More specifically, my main research interests focus on biologically optimised adaptive radiation therapy, including particle therapy, modelling the tumour microenvironment and the risks from radiotherapy.  I have been working here since 2006 in both research and teaching."

Emely Kjellsson Lindblom is a senior lecturer at MSF. She has been conducting both research and teaching students in the bachelor and master programmes since 2018.
"My research focuses on how mathematical models can be used to simulate tumours and treatments to predict the outcome of radiotherapy, with a particular focus on the role of the immune system. One of the projects I am working on is called The Virtual Tumour and involves the development of a test bed for in silico radiotherapy - from tumour modelling to evaluation of the effectiveness of radiotherapy."

Marta Lazzeroni is a senior lecturer at MSF since 2017 and also conducts research.
"I am researching how functional imaging with multiple tracers can be used to individualize the dose prescription to each patient for the best possible effect. I am also working on a research project on personalized treatment planning for stereotactic radiotherapy of high-grade gliomas."

Techniques that have revolutionised radiotherapy

In Stockholm, several techniques have been developed that have revolutionised radiotherapy practice worldwide. These include brachytherapy, radiosurgery (GammaKnife), stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) and intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT). In Uppsala, home to the first Nordic centre for proton beam therapy (Skandionkliniken), the history of proton therapy began with the world's first patient being treated in 1957. Thus, since the discovery of ionising radiation, Swedish research has largely shaped the practice of radiotherapy in the world in terms of the physics, technology and biology of radiation medicine. In Stockholm, this legacy continues at the Department of Medical Radiation Physics at Fysikum where research is conducted in many areas including biological optimisation, particle therapy and radiation protection.

Multidisciplinary research on radiotherapy with several partners

One of the projects has two research directions. Firstly, optimisation of the treatment plan using different dose planning methods and, secondly, adaptation of the treatment by early evaluation of the patient's response to the treatment using functional imaging techniques. The research is carried out, among others, with an industrial partner, RaySearch Laboratories AB (Stockholm, Sweden), one of the leading companies in dose planning systems for radiotherapy.

Two other major projects at the MSF focus on specific radiotherapy techniques: proton beam therapy and radiosurgery, respectively.

The research projects are carried out in close collaboration with the Skandion Clinic and Elekta Instruments AB (Stockholm, Sweden), respectively, the leading company in the manufacture of hardware and software for radiosurgery.
Another ongoing project driven by the Swedish Research Council focuses on the development of an in silico test bed for radiotherapy. Simulating the effects of radiation on cells, tissues and tumours is a natural step forward in the development of radiotherapy.

How do you become a hospital physicist?

The medical radiation physics programme is a five-year combined academic and professional programme for those who want to combine their interest in physics with medical applications. Using physics as a tool, you will study how radiation is used in healthcare to diagnose and treat diseases. In the latter part of the programme, you will do a work placement in a hospital.

More information

Science foundation year
Medical Radiation Physics
Doctoral studies in Medical Radiation Physics