Brain Tumors

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Proton Therapy for Brain Tumors

Higher Accuracy. Less Risk.

Safe, non-invasive, and virtually painless, proton therapy is an advanced radiation treatment that precisely targets brain tumors while sparing delicate surrounding healthy tissue.

Unlike standard X-ray radiation, which relies on photons to destroy cancer cells, protons can be precisely controlled to deliver radiation directly into the tumor without exiting through healthy tissue. This precision limits excess radiation to nearby critical organs, drastically reducing the risk of damage and the occurrence of side effects.

Treating Brain Tumors with Proton Therapy

Brain tumors require precise treatment and care due to their location and proximity to critical structures and the nervous system. With proton therapy, our world-class team delivers radiation at exact depths to precisely target brain tumors with a more powerful and more accurate dose.

Where standard radiation releases its maximum dose of radiation as soon as it penetrates the skin and continues to release it as it passes beyond the tumor, proton therapy reduces radiation exposure to unaffected surrounding tissue in the brain by up to 50%.

With less radiation exposure to normal brain tissue, eyes, and the optic nerve, proton therapy patients experience fewer side effects compared to standard X-ray radiation.1,2 Damage to brain functionality, the nervous system, vision, and hearing is minimized, allowing patients to undergo treatment with fewer interruptions or delays.

Proton Therapy vs X-Ray/IMRT for Brain Tumors

Proton therapy delivers significantly less radiation to the brain stem, eyes, and healthy tissue than X-ray radiation. These images show the areas of the brain exposed to radiation during treatment. Where standard X-ray treatment releases radiation from the moment it penetrates the skin and all the way through to the other side of the tumor, proton therapy deposits radiation directly into the tumor without exiting through surrounding healthy issue.

Benefits of Proton Therapy for Brain Tumors

  • Precisely targets the tumor, maximizing dose to affected tumor cells
  • No exit dose minimizes radiation exposure to surrounding healthy tissue and critical structures, including the brain, brainstem, pituitary gland, eyes, and the optic nerve
  • Lower risk of side effects such as loss of vision or hearing, cognitive or motor impairment, and neurological or hormonal deficiencies
  • FDA approved treatment
  • Reduced odds of recurring and secondary cancers
  • Ultra-precision enables the most complex and irregular-shaped tumors to be treated with greater accuracy
  • Can be used in combination with conventional radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and/or as a follow-up to surgery
  • Patients can maintain their quality of life during and after treatment

“Fortunately for me I never really had any symptoms of the brain tumor – it was found accidentally. But I had no residual effects from the treatment.”

– Tom, Brain Cancer Patient

Is Proton Therapy Right For Me?

Brain tumors most appropriate for proton therapy include3:

  • Gliomas (astrocytomas)
  • Ependymomas
  • Medulloblastomas
  • Pineoblastomas
  • Supratentorial PNET
  • Germ cell tumors
  • Pituitary gland tumors
  • Pediatric brain tumors

Arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) of the brain can also be treated using protons.

Whether your tumor is benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous), your choice of treatment is important. To find out if you might benefit from proton therapy, call us to schedule a consultation. Our radiation oncologists are here to help you determine a course of treatment that is right for you.

Brain Tumor Treatment FAQs

Proton therapy is an advanced form of radiation that destroys cancer cells by preventing them from dividing and growing. Proton therapy uses protons—positively charged atomic particles—instead of the photons used in standard X-ray radiation therapy. With proton therapy, doctors can precisely target the tumor while minimizing damage to the surrounding, healthy tissue. Unlike standard X-ray radiation, protons deposit much of their radiation directly in the tumor and then stop.

Depending on your brain tumor diagnosis, treatments are usually given 5 days a week for a period of 4-7 weeks. Each treatment session can range from 15-60 minutes, but the actual proton delivery is only about 60 seconds.

Most patients do not feel pain or discomfort during treatment. The majority of the time patients spend in the treatment room involves setting up for treatment.

Your radiation therapists will have everything ready for you before the treatment begins. You will be moved into position before each treatment using an FDA-approved robotic positioning system. You will be asked to lie still on a treatment bed while your therapists make adjustments. After you are in position, the proton beam is delivered and is on for about one minute. You will not feel or see the proton beam. You may hear some clicking from the equipment around you, but generally, after a few treatment sessions, the sounds go unnoticed. During the actual treatment, your therapists will leave the room and monitor your treatment from a control room just outside the treatment room. Although they are not in the same room as you, they can see and hear you through a video monitor. They remain close by and you can easily talk to them if you need anything.

There is no need to stay overnight in a hospital or remain at the center after your treatment. In most cases, you can go about your normal routine before and after your session.

Yes. Proton therapy can be used in combination with conventional radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy and/or as a follow-up to surgery.

The brain tumors most appropriate for proton therapy include:4

  • Gliomas (astrocytomas)
  • Ependymomas
  • Medulloblastomas
  • Pineoblastomas
  • Supratentorial PNET
  • Germ cell tumors
  • Pituitary gland tumors
  • Pediatric brain tumors
  • Recurrent brain tumors
  • Meningiomas
  • Craniopharyngioma

Arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) of the brain can also be treated using protons. If your condition is not listed, you may still benefit from proton therapy. Please reach out to the center to arrange a consultation and discuss if proton therapy is an appropriate treatment option for you.

Proton therapy is covered by Medicare and many private insurance providers. ProCure has financial counselors who are dedicated to guiding you through the insurance process. Please contact us if you have questions about coverage.

Proton therapy and X-ray radiation therapy both treat brain tumors by destroying the tumor’s cells when they attempt to divide and multiply. However, there is an important difference. X-ray radiation releases its maximum dose of radiation quickly after penetrating the skin and continues to release radiation as it passes through your body beyond the tumor, exposing more tissue to unwanted radiation and potentially causing more damage to healthy tissue and organs.

Proton therapy delivers most of the radiation exactly at the tumor site and then stops. There is essentially no radiation exposure beyond the tumor site once the radiation has reached and covered the treatment area. This allows proton radiation to target the tumor while reducing radiation exposure and potential damage to normal brain tissue, eyes, and the optic nerve.5,6

Yes. A study from the Oncology Institute of Southern Switzerland (published in Radiation and Oncology:  Journal of the European Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology) showed proton therapy was superior to standard radiation in sparing unaffected tissue and organs while treating small brain lesions (maximum brain stem irradiation ranged from 60% with IMRT to 26% with protons).6

Yes. A study by the Paul Scherrer Institute showed the overall survival rate for intracranial meningiomas patients treated by proton therapy was as high as 92.7%.7

There is no discomfort or sensation during the actual radiation treatment. Most brain tumor patients have few, or very mild, side effects from proton therapy. Any mild side effects can be managed with medications, if necessary. Most patients can continue to be active and engage in most of their normal daily activities.

Main patients with benign (non-cancerous) and malignant (cancerous) brain tumors are good candidates for proton therapy. If you are interested in proton therapy as a treatment option, we can schedule a consultation for you to speak with one of our radiation oncologists. During the consultation, the radiation oncologist will discuss different treatment options with you and determine if you may benefit from proton therapy. The radiation oncologists at ProCure use various forms of radiation to treat lung cancer in addition to proton therapy, so they will provide you with a treatment recommendation that is best for you.

Proton Therapy Research

Review the latest research studies on proton therapy for brain tumors.

Talk To Us

Find out if proton therapy is the right treatment for you. Contact our Care Team or request more information online.

Attend An Information Session

Learn more about proton therapy and our world-class Care Team. Contact the center to reserve your place.