Study shows that proton therapy has less side effects in cancer treatment.


A study has indicated that proton beam therapy results to fewer side effects in young cancer patients than conventional radiotherapy.

Proton beam therapy is a type of radiation treatment that uses proton rather than x-ray to treat cancer. Protons are positively charged particles which at high energy can destroy cancer cells.

It was published in the Lancet Oncology journal that the treatment reduced the toxic effects to normal tissues, survival rates of those seen with conventional radiotherapy was also noted in it. This alternative treatment drew national attention when Brett and Naghmeh King who took their son out of the country to undergo proton therapy in Prague, having not been offered to them on the NHS, and now have announced their son free of cancer.

The proton Therapy is a highly targeted treatment used for hard-to-reach cancers and has a lower risk of damaging other body tissues.

The Massachusetts General Hospital led a study and said “our findings suggests that proton radiotherapy  seems to result in an acceptable degree of toxicity and had similar survival outcome to those achieved with photon-based radiotherapy”.

Even though there still were some effects of treatment on hearing, endocrine and neurocognitive outcomes, especially in young patients, the other late effects common in photon-treated patients such as cardiac, pulmonary and gastrointestinal toxic effects were absent. The survival outcome noted with proton radiotherapy was similar to the conventional radiotherapy, suggesting that the use of the treatment may be an alternative to photon-based treatments.

The study analyzed 59 patients aged between 3-21 from 2003-2009, all of which had the most common kind of malignant brain tumor known as Medulloblastoma. After 5 years, their survival rate was similar to those of patients treated with conventional x-ray radiotherapy, but the researchers also found that there were fewer side effects to the heart and lungs.

What this study shows is that proton radiotherapy is just as effective as photon radiotherapy for curing Medulloblastoma and the promising aspect of it is that,it is less toxic in certain circumstances.

Dr Torunn Yock

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