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The Healing Power of Protons

Proton therapy and X-ray therapy both kill cancer cells by preventing them from dividing and growing. The difference between these therapies is that protons can be controlled, depositing the greatest amount of radiation right into the tumor and then stopping, allowing patients to receive higher doses with less damage to nearby healthy tissue.1,2 In contrast, X-ray radiation releases substantial doses of energy to healthy tissue and organs on the way to the tumor and continues to deliver radiation as it leaves the body.

The extra dose to healthy tissue from X-ray radiation can be as much as several hundred thousand dental X-rays.

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Tumors treated with proton therapy

Proton therapy is more appropriate for certain types of cancer than others. While research continues to support using protons in more tumor types, they are primarily used to treat:

Benefits At A Glance1-8

  • Fewer short- and long-term side effects
  • Proven to be effective in adults and children
  • Targets tumors and cancer cells with precision, reducing the risk of damage to surrounding healthy tissues and organs
  • Reduces likelihood of secondary tumors caused by treatment
  • Can be used to treat recurrent tumors, even in patients who have already received radiation
  • Improves quality of life during and after treatment
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  1. Fowler JF. What can we expect from dose escalation using proton beams. Clin Oncol. 2003;15(1):S10-S15.
  2. Zeitman AL, DeSilvio ML, Slater JD, et al. Comparison of conventional-dose vs high-dose conformal radiation therapy in clinically localized adenocarcinoma of the prostate [published correction appears in JAMA. 2008;299(8):898-899]. JAMA. 2005;294(10):1233-1239.
  3. Steneker M, Lomax A, Schneider U. Intensity modulated photon and proton therapy for the treatment of head and neck tumors. Radiother Oncol. 2006;80(2):263-267.
  4. Miralbell R, Lomax A, Cella L, Scheider U. Potential reduction of the incidence of radiation-induced second cancers by using proton beams in the treatment of pediatric tumors. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2002;54(3):824-829.
  5. Chung CS, Keating N, Yock T, Tarbell N. Comparative analysis of second malignancy risk in patients treated with proton therapy versus conventional photon therapy. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2008;72(1):S8.
  6. Lee CT, Bilton SD, Famiglietti RM, et al. Treatment planning with protons for pediatric retinoblasta, medulloblastoma, and pelvic sarcoma: how do protons compare with other conformal techniques? Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2005;63(2):362-372.
  7. Komaki R, Sejpal S, Wei X, et al. Reduction of bone marrow suppression for patients with stage III NSCLC treated by proton and chemotherapy compared with IMRT and chemotherapy. Particle Therapy Cooperative Group 47. 2008;O10:14.
  8. Mayahara H, Murakami M, Kagawa K, et al. Acute morbidity of proton therapy for prostate cancer: the Hyogo Ion Beam Medical Center experience. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2007;69(2):434-443.