Proton therapy is the latest advancement in the treatment of various types of cancer. It is
a precise form of radiotherapy. It uses a beam of protons to target the cancer cells and destroys them. It
scores high on precision and effectiveness when compared to other conventional cancer treatments like surgery,
and x-ray radiotherapy. Proton beam therapy destroys the cancerous
cells without harming the healthy cells. Thus it considerably reduces the side-effects that accompany
conventional cancer treatments.
History of Proton Beam Therapy
Proton beam therapy for the treatment of cancer was first introduced in 1954. However at that time, this
treatment was limited as there were very few centers for cancer treatment. The first proton treatment center
was introduced at the Loma Linda University Medical Center in California in 1990. Here more than 13000 patients
have been treated for 50 different types of tumors. Oncologists are familiarizing themselves with the use of
proton beam therapy to enable them to advise their patients to opt for this treatment.
How Proton Beam Therapy Works
In proton beam therapy, ionized particles or protons are targeted at the tumor. These protons are generated and
accelerated from a machine called cyclotron. While entering the body, the proton beam is at its lowest
concentration. It reaches its highest concentration once it gets into the targeted cells. Protons have a
relatively large mass and due to this they are not scattered much. They focus only on the aimed tumor. The
protons then damage the DNA of the cancerous cells in the tumor without harming the nearby cells, whereas in
radiotherapy, the nearby non-cancerous cells are also destroyed. Since the nearby cells are not harmed in case
of proton beam therapy, the side-effects are considerably reduced as compared to that of conventional
treatments. The duration of administering proton beam therapy depends on the size of the tumor, ranging from a
day to few weeks. If the tumor does not reappear within five years of the treatment, then the success of the
treatment is established.
Benefits of Proton Beam Therapy
The benefits of proton beam therapy over the conventional forms of cancer
treatment are - it ensures that the non-cancerous cells surrounding the
tumor are not destroyed, which considerably reduces the side-effects. Also the dose of radiation delivered
by a proton beam is uniform compared to the dose delivered by x-rays. The amount of radiation can be
increased without having to worry about its effects on the surrounding cells. It also costs less than
surgery. Proton beam therapy has been effective in the cure of prostate cancer
, cancer of the colon, liver, etc.
Since cancer treatment
centers providing proton beam therapy are few, efforts are being
made to make it available to as many cancer patients as possible. Proton beam therapy aims at providing
cancer patients with effective tumor control, less complications and side-effects and an improved quality
of life after treatment.