Breakthrough: New proton beam therapy could attack brain cancer

Breakthrough: New proton beam therapy could attack brain cancer

Could this miracle treatment eventually be used in hospitals worldwide?

A new study has found that proton beam therapy could attack brain cancer in children while causing fewer side effects than radiotherapy.

Photon-based radiotherapy is effective against brain tumors but it has toxic effects on other parts of the body, like the heart and the stomach — whereas a new proton beam therapy wouldn’t have any such effects while still being effective with about the same survival rates in young people, according to a Daily Mail report.

Proton beam therapy has become more widely known after a couple left Britain and went to the Czech Republic because the NHS did not allow for proton beam therapy. It prompted new interest in the alternative therapy method, and researchers are now studying its efficacy and safety.

Massachusetts General Hospital led the study, which found that radiotherapy was no more effective than proton beam therapy. There are still some side effects on hearing and neurocognitive outcomes especially in child patients, but they were a far cry from the much broader side effects in traditional radiotherapy.

In a statement, the researchers described their findings in greater detail:

“In this new study, a total of 59 patients aged 3 to 21 were enrolled between 2003 and 2009. Most patients (55) had the tumour partially or completely removed through surgery,” the statement reads. “All patients (59) received chemotherapy as well as proton beam therapy. On average, patients were followed-up for 7 years.

“At 3 years after treatment, 12% of patients had serious hearing loss,” the statement continues. “This rose to 16% at 5 years. Patients also displayed problems with processing speed and verbal comprehension, but perceptual reasoning and working memory were not significantly affected. At 5 years, over half (55%) had problems with the neuroendocrine system which regulates hormones – with growth hormone being the most commonly affected. However, the study reported no cardiac, pulmonary, or gastrointestinal toxic effects which are common in patients treated with photon radiotherapy.”

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