In the tumor therapy with ion beams developed by GSI as well as in other radiation therapies, so-called treatment plans are prepared prior to the treatment of individuals. Their validity is checked on models to guarantee a correct and safe procedure. The investigation of a new test option has now been published in the scientific journal “Physics in Medicine and Biology”. What’s special about this: Dea Aulia Kartini and Gianmarco Camazzola, GET_INvolved participant and summer student at GSI and FAIR, are among the authors of the publication. Carola Pomplun met them for an interview.
Dea Aulia Kartini comes from Indonesia and studies physics in Thailand. At the moment she is working on her PhD. She’s in Germany for the third time in the framework of the GET_INvolved program of FAIR and GSI and conducts research in the Biophysics department of GSI, working on the radiobiological verification of treatment plans.
Gianmarco Camazzola has left his home country Italy to pursue his master’s degree in physics in Heidelberg. During the Summer Student Program 2019 he was a guest at GSI and FAIR for eight weeks and worked in the Biophysics department. He has now returned via GET_INvolved and plans to also work here for his PhD thesis.
How did you both come to GSI and FAIR?
Dea Aulia Kartini: After her visit to GSI and FAIR in 2017, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand initiated the construction of a facility for proton therapy in Bangkok. In this context, my current professor was looking for a student and then suggested a stay here in Germany. I didn’t know GSI before, but now I am here for the third time.
Gianmarco Camazzola: During the preparation of the bachelor‘s thesis at the University of Trento, by reading some papers, I realized the primary role played by the GSI in the medical physics field. Afterwards, during the master‘s period at Heidelberg University, a former summer student told me about the International Summer Student Program. So I applied and was able to participate in 2019. It was a really great experience. That’s why I applied for GET_INvolved and for a PhD position here and I hope to start next year if everything works out.
What exactly is your research about?
DAK: I’m trying to improve the verification of treatment plans for ion beam tumor therapy. To verify biological endpoints, so-called phantoms are used. These are cell cultures that are “treated”, i.e. irradiated, in the same way as one would do it with a person. Afterwards, one looks at the cell survival in order to assess the correctness of the plan. Of course, this is just as relevant for research applications, for example for the creation of software for treatment planning. The phantoms used so far use single cell layers for this, which are also called monolayers. I am researching a method with three-dimensional phantoms. This could improve the accuracy and allow the assessment of the cell survival in depth and lateral distribution. I have prepared the corresponding experiments and carried them out with the help of the research team. We subsequently wrote a publication on the subject. Gianmarco is also a co-author.
GC: Some parts of my task overlapped with Dea‘s research, but I was working more on the software side: calculations and data analysis. The particle type and energy, the oxygen enhancement ratio or the relative biological effectiveness — all this must be included in the treatment planning system TRiP98, which is in use here. And following the experiment you have to verify whether the data obtained matches the prediction. I compared Dea’s dosimetry results with the data produced by TRiP98 predictions. That was partly my job as a summer student, but fortunately I was also allowed to get a taste of laboratory work and look over Dea’s shoulder back then.
Is this the first time that a GET_INvolved or a summer student is on a scientific publication?
DAK: As far as I know, it is the first time in relation to GET_INvolved.
GC: With the Summer Student Program, I can’t say for sure. But I think that at least it hasn’t happened very often yet.
To what extent was and is the Corona pandemic a problem for your work?
DAK: For me it was a very big problem. I wanted to come in March, I had applied for a visa, but then all borders were closed because of Corona. So I was waiting for a call from the embassy. In July they finally said that I was allowed to come. Within a week I packed everything up and was in Germany very quickly. Everyone here was surprised that I could come in such a short time. And now, as an Indonesian foreigner, it’s complicated to go back to Thailand, although I actually live there. They have strict rules to enter which are not easy to fulfil. It’s all quite difficult right now.
GC: It wasn’t too difficult for me because I was already in Heidelberg anyway. However, I had to return to Italy from March to August. So I couldn’t work in the lab, I could only work on the computer from home. But that went quite well.
How do you actually like it in Germany?
DAK: For me it’s like a third home next to Indonesia and Thailand. I like being here very much. The work and the team are great, life is good and I like meeting new people. Only the bureaucracy is a bit exhausting, there are so many rules and laws in the EU. In our country the stores are always open, even on Sundays and public holidays — in contrast to Germany, where there are fixed opening hours and on some days nothing is open at all.
GC: This is my third year here and I really enjoy it. I had to adapt to the food a bit. You always have to say if you don’t want any sauce! Fortunately, I’m already used to the bureaucracy, it’s no different in Italy.
What do you do in your free time?
DAK: I like cooking and baking, listening to music or watching Korean series.
GC: In my free time I want to have as little stress as possible. I relax, read or watch videos. And preparing something to eat with my flatmates is also great fun.
And what are the plans for your work in the near future?
DAK: I have to write my PhD thesis now. And a second publication is also planned, I need it for my scholarship. I’m about halfway done, the rest is being done now. The experiments are also continuing, cell irradiations are planned again soon. We will use other cell types that are more sensitive to the radiation
GC: I will soon continue work on another topic. The goal is to further extend the TRAX-CHEM software which has been developed at GSI to simulate the physical and chemical stages of radiation effects in matter. The planned extension will , study the interaction of the final radicals produced with the biological environment, like proteins, lipids, enzymes and so on. At the moment I’m reading a lot about this. I hope to implement it in my PhD thesis.