This article will explore the new applications for proton therapy in modern medicine. Examples of benefits, costs and treatment side-effects will be provided.
One of the most prominent drawbacks of traditional radiation therapy is the inability of physicians to map the pattern of irradiation directly to the cancer itself. Herein lies the opportunity for proton therapy to fill a longstanding need in the treatment of cancer. There are areas of higher mathematics which can aid in
obtaining even greater efficiency for the proton therapy; such as, fractal geometry. Fractal geometry algorithms may be more helpful in targeting tumors with non-linear geometric shapes which are more difficult for standard geometric algorithms to represent completely.
The beauty of the proton therapy is that greater radiation doses can be applied to the cancer site bypassing the damage to healthy cells that would occur as an unavoidable byproduct under the traditional radiation application scheme. Practically speaking, the radiation specialist can increase dosages designated for tumors while reducing the dose to surrounding tissues. For the patient, this translates into fewer harmful side-effects like diarrhea and vomiting.
Recently, Mevion Medical Systems received FDA approval of a smaller proton-therapy model known as the Mevion S250. The new system has a superconducting synchrocyclotron. The device fires protons at energies up to 250 MeV to obliterate cancers. The Mevion unit has a more compact design that will lower the high cost of setting up medical treatment centers and private oncology group practices. Costs for the Mevion device could be as low as $25 million dollars, as opposed to circa $160 million for larger proton therapy device set-ups.
Proton therapy is looking good for low risk or early stage prostate cancers. Four studies presented at the American Society for Radiation Oncology annual meeting showed that the therapy successfully reduces bad side effects while still maintaining a high quality of life for post surgery prostate cancer patients.
The efficacy of proton therapy has been shown in treating tumors of the brain, head and neck, central nervous system, lung, gastrointestinal system and cancers that cannot be removed completely by surgical intervention. Clearly, proton therapy has a bright future for cancers of the brain because surgeries here have had a more uncertain prognosis.
Proton therapy is one of the new frontiers of medicine. The power of the treatment is seen in its targeted precision and ability to navigate into areas of the body that have daunted even the most experienced surgeons for decades. In addition, the patient recovery downside is demonstrably less than with the conventional radiation therapy.