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Farr: Research Interests

As a therapeutic medical physicist I have been most interested in innovating improved systems and methods for treating patients with radiation. I began this challenge at the historic Harper Hospital in Detroit where I developed a beam-collimating device for high-energy neutron therapy. The device was able to provide conformal beam therapy while sparing normal tissues. This experience prepared me for a series of continuous developments in the field known as particle therapy.

Particle therapy has evolved to be mostly comprised of proton therapy. The contributions I have made to proton therapy include participating in the conversion of the Indiana University Cyclotron Facility to medical use as the nation’s third operating high-energy proton therapy center in 2004. Part of that development included the innovation of continuous uniform proton beam scanning which is widely used today. One additional development was the integration of industrial robotic technology to highly accurate patient positioning.

The expansion of proton therapy led me to an exciting international experience as the chief medical physicist at the Westdeutches Protonentherapiezentrum, Essen, Germany where I served as leader of the medical physics team to develop modulated scanning for clinical applications. Part of that development included a new patient transport system that was integrated with CT and MR image guidance. I was also involved in developing, with industry partners, a new computerized treatment planning system to take full advantage of the modulated scanning delivery method.

My research interests are tied closely to technical innovations. With every step forward in particle therapy there has been a new need for metrology of novel systems. The physical and radiation dosimetric characterization of the advanced treatment systems forms the primary area of my investigations. A second important focus continues to be clinical treatment planning, delivery and new methods of localization, verification and adaptive therapy. Today this includes incorporating multi-modality imaging such as PET, CT and MR with the goal of improving therapy through a better understanding of dynamic patient and treatment processes.

Since joining St. Jude in 2012 as the Chief of Radiation Physics, Division of Radiation Oncology in the Department of Radiological Sciences I have had the exciting challenge of partnering with my physician and allied health colleagues to prepare the institution for the inception of pediatric proton therapy in the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital Proton Therapy Center that is currently in development.