What is Proton Therapy

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Brain and Central Nervous System Cancer Treatments

Dr. Jason Rockhill speaks on how proton therapy can be beneficial to patients with brain tumors.

Brain Tumors Most Appropriate for Proton Therapy:

Tumors of the brain may be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Benign brain tumors need to be treated because they can cause serious health problems by pressing on sensitive areas of the brain. Additionally, some benign tumors can become malignant over time. Malignant tumors are classified as brain cancer when they originate in the brain. Because the brain is so complex, treatment to this area might have long-term implications to the nervous system or other organs. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with a brain tumor, we recommend learning about all your treatment options before making a decision.

Advantages of Proton Therapy For Brain Tumors Over Standard X-ray Radiation

Too much radiation to the brain has been known to cause neurological dysfunction. Compared with X-ray radiation therapy, proton therapy for brain tumors results in less exposure to normal brain tissue, eyes, optic nerves, and pituitary gland. This is because protons precisely target a tumor and do not continue beyond it the way X-rays do. Less healthy brain tissue is irradiated with proton therapy than with X-ray/IMRT, therefore patients experience fewer side effects.

Compared to other forms of radiation therapy, proton therapy (right, above) delivers less radiation to normal brain tissue. The extra exposure to healthy tissue that X-rays/IMRT deliver can be as much as getting 75,000 to 450,000 dental X-rays. This additional radiation increases the risk of side effects. Compared with X-ray radiation therapy, proton therapy results in less exposure to normal brain tissue, eyes, optic nerves, and pituitary gland.

Working Closely with UW Medicine’s Alvord Brain Tumor Center

When diagnosed with a brain tumor, patients face a variety of treatment options, often in conjunction with one another. At the Alvord Brain Tumor Center, experts in a wide variety of diseases and treatment options work closely to craft the best treatment plan for their patients. Many physicians who work at SCCA Proton Therapy Center also work at Alvord Brain Tumor Center.

Specialties include:

  • Radiation Oncology
  • Medical Oncology
  • Neuro-Oncology
  • Neuro-Surgery
  • Neurology
  • Hematology

Alvord Brain Tumor Center is excited to have Dr. Jerome Graber join the team. Dr. Graber joins the team after training at New York University and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and is a neuro-oncologist specializing in treating primary and metastatic brain and spine tumors with research interests in advanced imaging, biomarkers and immunotherapies.

Treatment Options at a Glance:

Proton therapy

Proton therapy is a non-invasive treatment that uses proton radiation to kill cancer cells by preventing them from dividing and growing.

Considerations: Proton therapy delivers less radiation to the non-target brain (defined as the normal brain minus the tumor area) than X-ray radiation. This decrease in dose to normal brain tissues may retain better overall brain function and reduce the likelihood of secondary tumors in the future.

Standard X-ray radiation

Standard radiation is a commonly used radiation treatment to kill cancer cells by preventing them from dividing and growing. Common options include: intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT),and 3D conformal therapy.

Considerations: Tissues in the brain are very sensitive. Radiating healthy brain tissue can result in loss of memory, cognitive skills, and mobility.

Proton therapy delivers less radiation to the non-target brain (defined as the normal brain minus the tumor area) than X-ray radiation. This decrease in dose to normal brain tissues may retain better overall brain function and reduce the likelihood of secondary tumors in the future.

Surgery

Surgery to the brain requires the removal of a part of the skull. This procedure is called a craniotomy. After the surgeon has removed the tumor and affected cells, the patient’s own bone will be used to cover the opening in the skull.

Considerations: Depending on the size and location of the tumor, risks include infection, bleeding, and nerve damage.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill or alter the cancer cells in the brain, often used in combination with other therapies.

Considerations: Chemotherapy drugs have limited effectiveness in treating brain tumors. However, when used in combination with other treatments, their effectiveness increases.

When treating tumors in the brain, a combination of treatments is often used.

Please give us a call at 1-855-528-7248 if you are ready to make an appointment. 

Please be advised that we will need your medical records to determine if you are a candidate for proton therapy.

 

Additional Resources:

Proton Therapy for Brain Cancer

 

To read a brain cancer survivor story, please click here.

Brain and Central Nervous System Cancers

“To me, being a physician means not only treating the disease, but supporting my patients’ strength, hope, and recovery.”

Central Nervous System Cancers; Lymphoma

“I feel privileged to be part of a team that provides the best care for our patients. I’m always impressed by my patients’ strength during a stressful and uncertain period of their lives. The care we provide—clinical, emotional, and personal—is one of the most gratifying aspects of being an oncologist.”

Brain and Central Nervous System Cancers

“I believe all patients deserve compassionate and the best medical care. My aim is to provide the best possible treatment for my patients, and provide education and support to my patients and their families, so they don’t have to face this journey alone.”

Related Studies

Proton beam craniospinal irradiation reduces acute toxicity for adults with medulloblastoma Brown AP, Barney CL, Grosshans DR, McAleer MF, de Groot JF, Puduvalli VK, Tucker SL, Crawford CN, Khan M, Khatua S, Gilbert MR, Brown PD, Mahajan A. Read Study
Clinical results of proton beam therapy for advanced neuroblastoma Oshiro Y, Mizumoto M, Okumura T, Sugahara S, Fukushima T, Ishikawa H, Nakao T, Hashimoto T, Tsuboi K, Ohkawa H, Kaneko M, Sakurai H. Read Study
Comparison of risk of radiogenic second cancer following photon and proton craniospinal irradiation for a pediatric medulloblastoma patient Zhang R, Howell RM, Giebeler A, Taddei PJ, Mahajan A, Newhauser WD. Read Study