Proton therapy ideal for brain cancer


There is one type for which proton therapy is, shall we say, a “no brainer.”

An estimated 23,800 adults and 4,830 children are diagnosed with cancerous tumors of the brain and spinal cord annually, with brain tumors making up the vast majority of that number.

In the case of children, proton therapy’s ability to zero in on a tumor while sparing healthy and developing tissues has brought about widespread acceptance as a treatment for brain tumors—and broad coverage by health insurance companies.

Provision has treated 45 patients with brain tumors—33 adults and 12 children. (Provision patient Emma Ferrell is featured in the photo.)

Take this article, published in the journal Pediatric Blood and Cancer, in January, 2004.

“At biologically equivalent doses, proton radiation therapy offers tumor control similar to photon radiation therapy. The superior physical properties of proton beams make this mode of radiation therapy less likely to cause late effects. For many children with brain tumors, proton beam radiation therapy may limit the late effects of radiation therapy and therefore offer an advantage over techniques using photons.”

In the case of adults with brain tumors, conventional radiation results in long-term health impacts that can arise decades after the original treatment.

In a 1990 study, published in the Journal of Neurosurgery, medical records of approximately 60 men and women treated between 1958 and 1987 with radiation for brain tumors were reviewed to determine the long-term effects of the therapy. Nearly 38 percent of them had “complications considered to be delayed side effects of radiotherapy,” the authors wrote. These included eyesight damage, pituitary dysfunction and other issues related to cognitive function.

“This study unveils considerable delayed sequelae (health impacts) of radiotherapy in a series of adult patients receiving what is considered “safe” treatment for benign brain tumors,” the authors wrote.

A 2016 study, published in a Dutch medical journal, examined records for 74 patients—both children and adults—diagnosed with low-grade glioma who received proton therapy. The researchers determined patients were exposed to less radiation than conventional radiation in areas of the brain “essential for neurologic function, neurocognition and quality of life, thus demonstrating the potential of this technique for minimizing long-term” health effects.

In other words, a “no-brainer.”