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Advances in Cancer Treatment: Proton Therapy at Orlando Health

February 16, 2016

Radiation therapy is one of the many ways we treat cancer. As it’s developed over the years, we’ve been able to target the areas we want to treat while minimizing radiation to other areas in the body.

This mostly has been an incremental improvement, but more recent advancements have made radiation therapy more targeted, safe and effective.

Proton treatment is one of the most promising advancements in this space, because it targets cancer cells while preserving the healthy tissue that surrounds the tumor. The therapy uses beams to eradicate tumors in adult cancers, especially those near vital organs such as the brain, spine, and lung. Proton therapy also is effective in treating childhood cancers because it lowers the risk of damage to healthy tissues in young patients whose bodies are still developing.

Proton Therapy at Orlando Health

Orlando Health will offer proton therapy for this very reason at our new Proton Therapy Center at UF Health Cancer Center — Orlando Health.

Many hospitals now offer this treatment thanks in large part to the FDA’s approval of a more affordable proton therapy system by Mevion, which provides precise, non-invasive treatment. Until 2012, there were only 10 proton therapy centers in the U.S.  But with the new technology and other advancements in radiation therapy, there are now 20 proton therapy centers in the U.S. and 16 more in development, according to the National Association for Proton Therapy.

For the last six years, we’ve been working with Mevion to bring this technology — which is more compact and still as effective as the typical large-scale proton therapy systems —  to patients in Central Florida who need it. Thankfully, after the FDA approval, we’ve been able to fast track installation of the technology and plan to open our Proton Therapy Center this spring.

We’re excited about offering this treatment for several reasons. First, it’s a big jump beyond standard radiation treatment and has proven to have a lot of benefit for children, where any radiation can be extremely dangerous. It’s also beneficial in brain tumors, tumors along the base of the skull and recurrent cancers with prior radiation. Proton therapy also holds promise for people with lung cancer ( a huge population) and those with esophageal cancer, where minimizing radiation to the heart is critical.

Because each proton beam adjusts to the depth and shape of tumor, proton therapy may benefit a wide variety of cancers, including early-stage prostate cancer where the dose-shaping characteristics of each proton (a particle that is smaller than an atom) can help to deliver targeted treatment while minimizing side effects.

While I’m optimistic that proton therapy will eventually revolutionize cancer treatment, conventional radiation therapy is still the standard. Proton therapy broadens patients’ treatment options, so it’s important that we as doctors look at each case individually to determine the best course of treatment.

If you would like to learn more about proton therapy, ask your physician if it might be a possibility for you. At the Cancer Center, our radiation oncologists will carefully assess your tumor and suggests several advanced therapeutic options, which could include proton therapy, that may be effective in treating your cancer.

Please visit our website to get more information about The Proton Therapy Center at UF Health Cancer Center — Orlando Health or to request an appointment with a cancer specialist.