Mason Strong: Teenage boy’s fight against pediatric brain cancer brings together an entire community.


Published: May 8, 2019 at 09:49 AM EDT

No parent wants to hear that their child has cancer.  Unfortunately, those were the words Ginger and Richard Cobble, parents of son Mason Cobble, 16, heard on Tuesday, February 26, 2019.  Mason is a sophomore at Walker Valley High School in Cleveland, Tenn. and an overall healthy child.  On Friday morning, February 22nd of 2019, Mason had a seizure and was later diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme GBM, a rare pediatric brain cancer.  He immediately had surgery to remove the tumor followed by proton therapy.

Proton therapy is an advanced form of radiation therapy. Provision develops proton centers that use the most precise type of proton therapy, known as pencil beam scanning.  This allows radiation oncologists to precisely target the tumor, minimizing the dose of radiation received to nearby healthy tissues and organs.  Because children and adolescents are growing, their tissue is more sensitive to radiation and its potential for negative side effects. The American Society of Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) ranks using proton therapy to treat solid tumors in pediatric patients with the highest importance (ASTRO Model Policy, 2014).  For brain tumors, proton therapy can minimize negative side effects that include developmental delays, hearing loss, damage to salivary glands, and hormone deficiencies.

study presented at the European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology Congress (ESTRO) compared three types of radiotherapy for pediatric brain cancer and found that in pediatric brain tumors, pencil beam scanning proton therapy consistently delivered the lowest amount of radiation to the hippocampus and temporal lobes, areas of the brain that are vital for memory function.

Laura Toussaint, a PhD student in the Department of Medical Physics, presented the study and said, “Alongside surgery and chemotherapy, radiotherapy plays an important role in treating brain tumors in children, but we need to protect children’s developing brains from unnecessary radiation.  The more we learn about how to effectively target brain tumors while minimizing the dose to other parts of the brain, the better we can preserve children’s cognitive abilities and quality of life after treatment.”

After seeking the opinion of several medical professionals, Mason Cobble started proton therapy treatment.  In a post on the Team Mason Strong Facebook page, Mason’s mom Ginger Cobble said, “It is such a blessing that Provision is in [Tennessee].  So thankful we get treatment so close to home.”

The Chattanooga and Cleveland, Tennessee communities have pulled together to support Mason in his fight against cancer.  His story has been featured in the Cleveland Banner, on News Channel 9, on area radio stations and other media outlets.

On Wednesday, May 8, 2019, Mason rang the victory bell after completing his treatment.  He still has a fight ahead of him with more chemotherapy treatments and participation in a clinical trial at Duke, but the staff at Provision is thankful for him and are #TEAMMASONSTRONG.