What is Proton Therapy

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Lung Cancer Treatment

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, and affects many more patients worldwide. Chemotherapy alone is not enough to kill 100% of cancer cells, and surgery often cannot remove all of the cancer that is present. Radiation is a critical component of lung cancer treatment, either given alone, or in conjunction with chemotherapy or surgery. Proton therapy is one of the most advanced forms of radiation treatment.  

Proton Therapy Offers:

  • Less radiation to your heart, lung, and esophagus
  • Potentially fewer side effects from radiation treatment, including lower rates of pneumonitis and esophagitis (less inflammation of the lungs and esophagus) compared to regular radiation 
  • Similar efficacy at killing cancer cells as other forms of radiation

Advantages of Proton Therapy Over X-Ray Radiation 

Too much radiation to the healthy tissue surrounding the tumor can increase the risk of side effects. This is a major concern when it comes to radiation treatment for lung cancer because the cancer may be close to your heart, healthy lung, and other critical organs. The unique properties of protons allow proton radiation to better conform to your cancer, reducing excess radiation to the healthy tissues and organs around it.

A large clinical trial in lung cancer treatment recently showed that a patient’s survival after lung cancer treatment is closely related to the amount of radiation the patient’s heart received, and the amount of esophagus toxicity (swallowing difficulty) patients developed during radiation treatment (trial RTOG 0617). Proton therapy can drastically decrease the radiation dose to the heart and the esophagus, as well as normal lung.  

In the figure below, a proton therapy radiation plan is shown on the right, and a plan with regular radiation is shown on the left. With proton radiation, there is less radiation to the normal lung, heart, and rest of the body, compared with regular radiation. 

At our center, we believe in advancing lung cancer treatment for all patients, which is why we are participating in a large, multi-center clinical trial comparing proton radiation against regular x-ray radiation for lung cancer treatment, RTOG 1308. Through clinical research, we help not only our patients, but all future patients with lung cancer.  
Proton therapy is as effective as regular x-ray radiation in treating lung cancer and can reduce side effects such as inflammation of the heart, lungs and esophagus. This is great news for you and your loved ones because now you have a powerful tool to fight lung cancer that can reduce your risk of side effects.

Types of Lung and Thoracic Cancers

Below is a list of lung and thoracic cancers that can benefit from proton therapy. Our radiation oncologists use other forms of radiation to treat cancers, so they will provide you with an expert recommendation for your consideration. 

  • Non-small cell lung cancer
  • Select small cell lung cancer 
  • Malignant mesothelioma
  • Mediastinal tumors
    • Thymoma
    • Sarcoma
  • Select recurrent lung and metastatic cancer

Are You a Candidate for Proton Therapy?

You should consider proton therapy if you meet any of the criteria below:

  • Have lung cancer that has not spread outside your chest
  • Have limited or poor pulmonary function
  • Have a heart condition
  • Had prior radiation therapy

Choosing the right treatment for your lung cancer is an important decision. While there are a lot of good options, make sure you look into proton therapy at SCCA Proton Therapy Center to help reduce your risk of side effects.

Additional Resources: 

Proton Therapy for Lung Cancer

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

Lung Cancer; Prostate Cancer; Ocular Cancers

“In order to be successful in caring for the patient, a partnership must be forged between the oncologist and the patient, with each contributing to the development of a treatment plan that speaks to all of the needs of the patient.”

Lung Cancer; Prostate Cancer

“Ultimately, the patient chooses the treatment path, but it is my duty to ensure that patients have all the information needed to feel confident in the decision.”

Related Studies

Proton Beam Radiotherapy and Concurrent Chemotherapy for Unresectable Stage III Non–Small-Cell Lung Cancer Final Results of a Phase 2 Study Chang JY, Verma V, Li M, et. al. Read Study
An in-silico comparison of proton beam and IMRT for postoperative radiotherapy in completely resected stage IIIA non-small cell lung cancer Berman AT, Teo BK, Dolney D, Swisher-McClure S, Shahnazi K, Both S, Rengan R. Read Study
Advantages of proton therapy in non-small cell lung cancers Fan C, Li Y, Liu Q. Read Study
Compensation method for respiratory motion in proton treatment planning for mobile liver cancer Jeong H, Lee SB, Yoo SH, Lim YK, Kim TH, Park S, Chai GY, Kang KM, Shin D. Read Study