Proton therapy is a specialized form of radiation therapy for cancer patients. Due to the nature of this treatment, patients must be accurately aligned to the couch top for treatment during a process that can take up to 20 minutes. PLUS+ is a proton therapy couch top system that utilizes independently controlled panels to streamline the daily patient alignment process. PLUS+ aims to minimize the amount of x-ray radiation patients are exposed to, reduce the time patients spend immobilized, and improve clinical efficiency.
Plus+ is the culmination of my education in biological sciences and engineering design innovation and was created as my Masters Thesis. PLUS+ was created through two quarters of independent and intensive ethnographic field research, iterative brainstorming, prototyping, and testing.
The Culmination of My Education, Passions, and Dreams.
Ever since I was little, I dreamed of becoming a doctor. During my undergraduate time at Northwestern University as a biological sciences major, I happened across human-centered design. From the day I began the Segal Design Certificate program, I sought opportunities to find the intersection between medicine and design. Now as a graduate student, I have the opportunity to devote my thesis to impacting the pediatric field, not through surgery, but through an innovative solution for proton therapy that can come to be a symbol of hope for living a cancer-free life for children.
Impact is Great...but What Exactly IS Proton Therapy?
Proton therapy is a specialized form of radiation therapy that, unlike conventional radiation therapy, uses a very targeted beam of proton radiation to precisely target cancer cells. This allows for accurate dose application to cancerous cells without exposing the healthy, surrounding cells to radiation.
Due to the precision of treatment, patients are less likely to have negative side effects such as developmental abnormalities and impaired bodily function. As a result, proton therapy is recommended for pediatric patients who have head or neck tumors or tumors near the spine to reduce the possibility of permanent bodily damage during treatment.
Before treatment, patients must undergo simulations. Simulations include confirmation of the diagnosis through radiation imagery, calibration of the proton therapy machine (cyclotron), and creation of an immobilization device. Upon completion of simulation, the patient may begin treatment.
Treatment typically occurs on a weekly basis for 4-8 weeks. Patients undergo radiation therapy in an outpatient setting with each round of treatment lasting between 15-60 minutes.