Keeping healthy cells healthy

Keeping healthy cells healthy

Proton therapy may reduce cancer treatment risks

By Theresa Makrush

One of the challenges in treating pancreatic cancer effectively with radiation therapy is the potential of harming surrounding healthy organs such as the small intestine, stomach and kidneys. Researchers at the UF Proton Therapy Institute have early evidence that proton therapy may significantly reduce this risk.

R. Charles Nichols

As reported in November at the 52nd Annual Meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology, a study from UF in conjunction with investigators from the University of Maryland compared a type of X-ray radiation called intensity modulated radiotherapy, or IMRT, with proton therapy for a series of pancreatic cancer patients. The study showed that proton therapy reduced normal tissue radiation exposure. The most significant reductions were seen for the small intestine, right kidney and stomach.

“The advantage of proton therapy is clear,” said R. Charles Nichols, M.D., an assistant professor of radiation oncology at the UF Proton Therapy Institute. “Our best IMRT treatments for pancreatic cancer can be improved upon by proton therapy. With protons we can both deliver the optimal dose to the targeted treatment area and reduce the risk of treatment complications without compromising the chance for cure.”

The study looked at eight patients with surgically removed pancreatic cancers who underwent IMRT as well as proton therapy. The proton plans achieved the same radiation dose to the treatment area as the IMRT plans, but reduced how much normal tissues received radiation by as much as 88 percent.