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Historical review of brachytherapy

Georgi Varbanov, Radostin Mihaylov, Denitsa Simeonova, Yordanka Eneva


Introduction: Brachytherapy is a form of radiotherapy where a sealed radiation source is placed in­side or next to the area requiring treatment. It is commonly used as an effective treatment for cancer of the cervix, prostate, breast, skin, etc.

Materials and methods: The data was collected from the following databases: PubMed, National Li­brary of Medicine - National Institutes of Health and Research Gate with the keywords brachythera­py, history and development.

Results: Brachytherapy dates back to 1901 when Pierre Curie suggested to Henri-Alexandre Danlos that a radioactive source could be inserted into a tumor. Danlos then tested this theory and discov­ered that radiation caused tumors to shrink. In the early twentieth century, techniques for the appli­cation of brachytherapy were pioneered at the Curie institute in Paris by Danlos and at St. Luke’s and Memorial Hospital in New York by Robert Abbe. Gold seeds filled with radon were used as early as 1942 and limited beta rays, allowing only gamma rays to pass. First used in 1958, iridium is the most commonly used artificial source for brachytherapy today. The development of remote afterloading systems, which allowed the radiation to be delivered from a safe distance, and the use of new radioac­tive sources in the 1950s and 1960s, minimized the radiation exposure. In the 1990s, magnetic reso­nance imaging and computed tomography scans became more widely available and they helped doc­tors plan and monitor the procedure. Nowadays, advanced computerized planning systems are intro­duced for the creation of virtual 3-D models, used to avoid damaging healthy tissues.

Conclusion: Brachytherapy is known to produce excellent long-term results, both in terms of surviv­ability and in terms of toxicity reduction. These advantages contributed for the fast development and early usage of the method in Western Europe and the United States.


brachytherapy; radiotherapy; history; review



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