At Laboratori Nazionali del Sud of the Instituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare of Catania (Sicily, Italy), the first Italian hadron therapy facility named CATANA (Centro di AdroTerapia ed Applicazioni Nucleari Avanzate) has been realized. Inside CATANA 62 MeV proton beams, accelerated by a superconducting cyclotron, are used for the radiotherapeutic treatments of some types of ocular tumours. Therapy with hadron beams still represents a pioneer technique, and only a few centers worldwide can provide this advanced specialized cancer treatment. On the basis of the experience so far gained, and considering the future hadron-therapy facilities to be developed (Rinecker, Munich Germany, Heidelberg/GSI, Darmstadt, Germany, PSI Villigen, Switzerland, CNAO, Pavia, Italy, Centro di Adroterapia, Catania, Italy) we decided to develop a Monte Carlo application based on the GEANT4 toolkit, for the design, the realization and the optimization of a proton-therapy beam line. Another feature of our project is to provide a general tool able to study the interactions of hadrons with the human tissue and to test the analytical-based treatment planning systems actually used in the routine practice. All the typical elements of a hadron-therapy line, such as diffusers, range shifters, collimators and detectors were modelled. In particular, we simulated the Markus type ionization chamber and a Gaf Chromic film as dosimeters to reconstruct the depth (Bragg peak and Spread Out Bragg Peak) and lateral dose distributions, respectively. We validated our simulated detectors comparing the results with the experimental data available in our facility. © 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.