The European-funded HARMONIC project kicked off on June 5th with a meeting at the Palau Macaya in Barcelona. During two days, more than 46 experts from 24 partner institutions in 13 European countries came together to launch the activities which will be implemented in the coming 5 years by the six work packages of the project. The project is led by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), an institution supported by “la Caixa”.
HARMONIC aims at better understanding the long-term health effects of medical exposure to ionising radiation in children, specifically those undergoing modern radiotherapy (including proton therapy) for cancer or X-ray guided imaging for cardiac interventions. By building European cohorts and registries for the long-term follow up of paediatric patients, the project will provide the medical and scientific communities with tools to investigate the late health effects of early life exposure to a wide range of doses from photons, protons and secondary neutrons radiation.
“Although the benefits of using radiation in medical diagnosis and treatment largely outweigh the risks, there is a need to better understand the long-term health effects of such exposures,” explains Isabelle Thierry-Chef, ISGlobal researcher and project coordinator.
The project partners will use an integrated approach of conventional epidemiology, based on state-of-the art dosimetry, complemented by non-invasive imaging and molecular epidemiology to explore potential effects of exposure at very early ages. They will investigate possible mechanisms that may lead to the development of cancer and vascular diseases in these patients later in life.
Ultimately, the project’s goal is to establish recommendations and guidelines to optimise treatments and further reduce patient doses. “With this project we hope to improve the long-term well-being of these paediatric patients”, adds Thierry-Chef.