In a recent study, researchers found out that treating cancer with proton therapy resulted in fewer and less severe side effects than treating cancer with conventional (photon) radiation therapy. Although the survival rates are similar for both types of radiation therapy, there are numerous short-term and long-term benefits to reducing the side effects of cancer treatments.
Most patients treated with radiation therapy receive photon radiation due to the limited accessibility of proton therapy. With proton therapy, there is less radiation dose outside of the tumor. In conventional radiation therapy, x-rays continue to give radiation doses as they leave the person’s body. Nearby healthy tissues are affected, possibly causing side effects.
Proton Therapy vs. Conventional Radiation Therapy
For the study, almost 1,500 individuals with different forms of cancer were evaluated and were receiving a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. In order to collect accurate data, the researchers asked the patients if they experienced any side effects and what their overall experience was throughout the study period. In addition, the researchers focused on the most severe types of side effects.
The results of the study were:
- 11.5% of the 391 people who received proton therapy experienced fewer side effects within 90 days of starting treatment.
- 27.6% of the 1,092 people who received photon radiation therapy had a severe side effect within 90 days of starting treatment.
- The survival rates for both types of treatment are very similar.
- When treating cancer, proton therapy is just as effective as conventional radiation therapy.
The risk of severe side effects was two-thirds lower for those receiving proton therapy, compared with those receiving conventional radiation therapy. Researchers didn’t anticipate how substantial the benefits of using proton therapy for treating cancer would be in comparison to conventional radiation therapy. The results are very promising in the search for effective cancer treatments that result in fewer side effects.
Why is this important?
Evidence based research is vital to ensure cancer patients receive optimal treatment. This research study supports the use of proton therapy as an effective treatment that also significantly reduces short-term and long-term side effects of cancer treatment.. Some of the important aspects of using proton therapy for cancer treatment include:
- Patients with fewer side effects can tolerate other treatments, such as surgery and chemotherapy, if needed.
- Patients are less likely to have long-term side effects that can cause co-morbidities later in life that may reduce one’s life expectancy.
- Patients can continue to work, travel, or participate in other necessary activities to maintain their lifestyle.
- Patients often have an easier transition to survivorship with shorter recovery periods.
Benefits of Proton Therapy
Proton therapy is an advanced type of radiation that precisely targets tumors, which significantly reduces the damage to surrounding healthy tissue and organs. Protons are most successful in treating localized cancers that have not spread to other areas. Some benefits of proton therapy include:
- Healthy tissues and organs are exposed to significantly less radiation than with traditional radiation therapies, which mean less risk of cancer recurrence
- Cancer site receives a higher dose of radiation than traditional radiation therapies can offer
- Painless, non-invasive treatment method
- Fewer side effects
- Better quality of life during and after treatment
- Ability to treat tumors close to critical organs
- Ability to treat tumors too small for other modalities
Overall, proton therapy is much more beneficial to an individual’s quality of life over conventional radiation therapy. For more information about how Ackerman Cancer Center can treat your cancer, please visit our website or call (904) 880-5522.