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Uses of Proton Therapy

The types of treatments for which protons are used can be separated into two broad categories The first are those for disease sites that favor the delivery of higher doses of radiation, i e dose escalation In some instances dose escalation has been shown to achieve a higher probability of "cure" (i e local control) than conventional radiotherapy. These include (but are not limited to) uveal melanoma (ocular tumors), skull base and paraspinal tumors (chondrosarcoma and chordoma), and unresectable sarcomas In all these cases proton therapy achieves significant improvements in the probability of local control over conventional radiotherapy.

The second broad class are those treatments where the increased precision of proton therapy is used to reduce unwanted side effects, by limiting the dose to normal tissue In these cases the tumor dose is the same as that used in conventional therapy, and thus there is no expectation of an increased probability of curing the disease Instead, the emphasis is on the reduction of the integral dose to normal tissue, and thus a reduction of unwanted effects. Two prominent examples are pediatric neoplasms (such as medulloblastoma) and prostate cancer In the case of pediatric treatments there is convincing clinical data showing the advantage of sparing developing organs by using protons, and the resulting reduction of long term damage to the surviving child.

In the case of prostate cancer the issue is not so clear Some published studies found a reduction in long term rectal and genitio-urinary damage when treating with protons rather than photons (also known as X-ray or gamma ray therapy) Others showed the difference is small, and limited to cases where the prostate is particularly close to certain anatomical structures. The relatively small improvement found may be the result of inconsistent patient set-up and internal organ movement during treatment, which offsets most of the advantage due to increased precision. One source suggests that dose errors around 20% can result from motion errors of just 2 5 mm,] and another that prostate motion is between 5– 0 mm.

However, the number of cases of prostate cancer diagnosed each year far exceeds those of the other diseases referred to above, and this has led some, but not all, facilities to devote a majority of their treatments slots to prostate treatments For example two hospital facilities devote roughly 65% and 50% of their proton treatment capacity to prostate cancer, while a third devotes only 7 %.

Current overall world wide numbers are hard to compile, but one example in the literature shows that in 2003 roughly 26% of proton therapy treatments world wide were for prostate cancer. Proton therapy for ocular (eye) tumors is a special case since this treatment requires only a comparatively low energy (about 70 MeV) Owing to this low energy requirement, some particle therapy centers only treat ocular tumors. Proton, or more generally, hadron therapy of tissue close to the eye affords sophisticated methods to assess the alignment of the eye that can vary significantly from other patient position verification approaches in image guided particle therapy. Position verification and correction have to ensure that sensitive tissue like the optic nerve is spared from the radiation in order to preserve the patient’s vision.

 Source: wiki