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Recent Study shows promise of Proton Therapy for Liver Cancer

Recent Study shows promise of Proton Therapy for Liver Cancer

Dale Klapperich’s first thought on learning he had liver cancer was “my life is over.” Doctors could not give him a definitive prognosis initially, which made matters worse. The tumor in his liver ruptured, contaminating the area and making it more challenging to determine precisely how the cancer was progressing. 

Dale had several treatments, including surgeries and radiation before his interventional radiologist suggested proton therapy. “She advised that I meet with Dr. Apisarnthanarax at SCCA Proton Therapy Center to discuss what proton therapy could do for me.” Proton Beam Therapy delivers a higher dose precisely within the liver tumor, with no radiation to healthy tissues beyond the tumor, reducing the chance of liver damage. This, in turn, has led to better overall survival rates. That sounded good to Dale. His case was challenging, but he tolerated treatments well, and he continues to see doctors for his cancer. Despite that, he’s upbeat about his prognosis.

A recent study published in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology showed that proton therapy “was associated with improved overall survival” when compared to conventional radiation in certain Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC, liver cancer) patients. Many HCC patients will be treated with surgery, but not all, and donor livers can be hard to source. Study results revealed that traditional radiation doses can cause liver toxicity, which is potentially fatal. “This is the strongest evidence to date for using protons to treat liver cancers,” says Dr. Apisarnthanarax, our gastro-intestinal cancers expert. “Though this was a retrospective study rather than a prospective study, the results are provocative and strongly support the routine use of protons for HCC patients,” he said.

Since he finished proton therapy in March, Dale and his wife have been traveling up a storm, including a three-day excursion down the Oregon coast immediately after treatment. “We just love to see new things,” says Dale. Aside from some mild nausea and fatigue, Dale didn’t report any side effects. “They lasted for a couple weeks and didn’t impact my appetite or my daily activities. I would take a short nap most days, which seemed to help tremendously with the fatigue. I was still able to work in my garden and help out as a cashier at my wife’s thrift store.”

We hope Dale will continue to do better and look forward to hearing about his travels with his wife.

Dale poses with his family.