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Comparison with other treatment options.

The issue of when, whether, and how best to apply this technology is controversial. As of 2009 it is not yet known whether proton therapy yields better clinical outcomes than other types of radiation therapy for people with many common cancers. Proton therapy is far more expensive than conventional therapy. It requires a large capital investment (roughly $100M to $150M) for 2009 technology.

Preliminary results from a three-year 2009 study, including high dose treatments, show very few side effects.

X-ray radiotherapy

The figure at the top of the page shows how beams of x-rays (IMRT) left frame and beams of protons right frame, of different energies, penetrate human tissue. A tumor with a sizable thickness is covered by the IMPT spread out Bragg peak (SOBP) shown as the red lined distribution in the figure. The SOBP is an overlap of several pristine Bragg peaks (blue lines) at staggered depths.

X-ray therapy may be described as having more "skin sparing potential" than proton therapy: x-ray radiation at the skin and at very small depths is lower than for proton therapy. One study estimates that passively scattered proton fields have a slightly higher entrance dose at the skin (~75%) compared to therapeutic megavoltage (MeV) photon beams (~60%). X-ray radiation dose falls off gradually, causing unnecessary damage to tissue deeper in the body and damaging the skin and surface tissue opposite the beam entrance. The X-ray advantage of reduced damage to skin at the entrance is partially counteracted by damage to skin at the exit point. Since X-ray treatments are usually done with multiple exposures from opposite sides, each section of skin will be exposed to both entering and exiting X-rays. In proton therapy, skin exposure at the entrance point is higher, but tissues on the opposite side of the body than the tumor receive no radiation. Thus, x-ray therapy causes slightly less damage to the skin and surface tissues, and proton therapy causes less damage to deeper tissues in front of and beyond the target. 



The decision to use surgery or proton therapy (or in fact any radiation therapy) is based on the tumor type, stage, and location. In some instances surgery is superior (e.g. cutaneous melanoma), in some instances radiation is superior (e.g. skull base chondrosarcoma), and in some instances they are comparable (e.g. prostate cancer). In some instances, they are used together (e.g. rectal cancer or early stage breast cancer). The benefit of external beam proton radiation lies in the dosimetric difference from external beam x-ray radiation and brachytherapy in cases, where the use of radiation therapy is already indicated, rather than as a direct competition with surgery.


Source: wiki