Proton therapy is an advanced form of radiation treatment that uses protons to treat cancer. Proton therapy has been shown to be effective in treating tumors near or in vital organs, including the brain, head & neck, spinal cord, breast, and lung. The precise delivery of protons results in less radiation to normal tissue around these sensitive sites, including the elimination of an exit dose, while increasing the treatment dose to the targeted site.
Proton therapy is also beneficial for the treatment of pediatric tumors since it can reduce the risk of side-effects, such as developmental delays and decreased bone and soft tissue growth, while improvinglong-term health outcomes by reducing the chance of secondary cancers later in life.
The key distinctive quality of protons is the Bragg Peak – a physical property of charged-particle beams causing the vast majority of proton energy to be delivered over a short and precisely-defined interval, confining the high dose to the tumor target while sparing normal tissue and other critical structures in close proximity. Since the radiation dose given through protons is very precise, with the exposure to surrounding healthy areas limited (less toxicity), patients experience fewer harmful side effects and are able to tolerate treatment much better. Due to proton therapy’s ability to arrest tumor progression while limiting exposure to critical structures, this treatment offers new hope for patients who are not able to get surgery and conventional radiation therapy and for patients with recurrent disease who have received previous radiation treatment.
Traditional radiation treatment has a relatively high entrance dose and exit dose.
Proton therapy has a lower entrance dose and no exit dose.
Comparison of Proton Beam Scanning (PBS) vs. Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT). Both PBS (left) and IMRT (right) plans use 5 transverse fields and satisfy the prescription dose objective of 59.5 Gy (RBE), with the proton plan achieving a significant reduction in normal tissue dose. (Courtesy: Mass General Hospital)
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