Proton Therapy (also known as proton beam therapy) is a newer treatment for cancer that allows for more precise targeting of cancer cells. It is the most technologically advanced method to deliver radiation treatments for cancer today. Instead of using X-rays (also known as photon beam therapy) like traditional radiation treatment, it uses protons to send beams of high energy that can target tumors more precisely than X-ray radiation. Because it is more precise than some other radiation therapy treatments, it is better for treating cancer in hard-to-reach areas of the body.
How Does Proton Therapy Work?
Proton therapy uses protons (positively charged atoms) to destroy cancer cells. Its high degree of accuracy means that it can locate and damage the DNA in cancer cells while minimizing exposure to surrounding tissue. Not only is it more accurate, it also deposits less low-energy radiation when entering and leaving the body, so there is less exposure to nearby healthy tissue. In comparison, X-ray radiation therapy, while still effective at destroying cancer cells, exposes much more healthy tissue to the radiation.
Who Are Good Candidates for Proton Therapy?
Proton therapy is ideal for head and neck, spine, breast, bone, brain and prostate cancers. Particularly good candidates for proton therapy are patients with solid tumors near sensitive organs, like the brain, breast or lungs. Proton therapy is recommended for many pediatric cancer treatments as well, as it is believed to reduce the risk of children developing secondary cancers from their initial treatment later in life. It is also beneficial for treating ocular and recurrent cancers. Proton therapy is the safest radiation treatment available to treat recurrent tumors previously treated with radiation.
Benefits of Proton Therapy
Proton therapy offers some unique advantages to both doctors and patients including fewer harmful side effects, more direct impact on the tumor, and more effective tumor control. Here are some of the many benefits proton therapy offers:
- Non-invasive and painless
- Delivers a higher level of radiation than current radiation therapies
- Causes less damage to surrounding tissues
- Can target critical areas
- Produces fewer/milder side effects short and long term
- Potentially higher cure rates – physicians can deliver higher doses of radiation to cancerous tumors
- Short treatment sessions – 15-45 minutes
- Significantly reduced chances of developing a secondary cancer due to radiation
- Can be used to treat recurrent cancer
How Is Proton Radiation Therapy Different from Standard Radiation Therapy?
Both standard radiation therapy and proton therapy damage the cellular DNA in cancer cells. The biggest advantage of proton therapy, however, is that protons slowly deposit their energy as they travel towards the cancerous tumor and then, due to a unique physical characteristic called the Bragg Peak, deposit the majority of the radiation dose directly in the tumor and travel no further through the body. Thus, less surrounding tissue/organs receive radiation, lowering the risk of unwanted complications and side effects.
Less Unnecessary Radiation to Healthy Tissues
X-rays, which are used in standard radiation therapy treatments, deposit the largest concentration of the radiation dose immediately upon entering the body while traveling to the tumor. X-rays also continue to travel through the body after depositing radiation in the intended tumor until they exit out the other side. This results in the delivery of unnecessary radiation to more healthy tissue and organs. Protons stop after depositing the radiation dose in the tumor.
New KCUC Proton Therapy Treatment Facility Coming Soon
At KCUC Urology and Oncology, we bring the latest and best treatments to our patients. Our new Kansas City Proton Institute (KCPI) is not only one of the first proton therapy centers in the KC area, our center will be the only office-based radiation facility. That means increased convenience and lower costs for our patients. They will be in and out faster with much less hassle than if it was in a typical big hospital setting.