Advanced form of proton therapy shows promise for treating lung cancer recurrence

Treatment plans for intensity-modulated proton therapy (left) and photon-based intensity-modulated radiation therapy (right) for a patient with non–small cell lung cancer are shown. A clinical trial comparing the two techniques in patients with the disease is under way. Images courtesy of Dr. Quynh-Nhu Nguyen.

At last week’s Multidisciplinary Thoracic Cancers Symposium in San Francisco, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center presented their research on reirradiation of thoracic cancers with IMPT (Intensity Modulated Proton Therapy). According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the US. In the case of reoccurrence, the outcomes for surgery and chemotherapy are poor, while there is a growing interest in using radiation.

Proton therapy is an ideal treatment for reirradiation because of the precision offered from being able to reduce the exit dose. This gives medical practitioners the ability to keep the tumor dose relatively high, while not reaching the toxic levels to major organs. Adding IMPT to characteristics of the proton beam gave MD Anderson very favorable results. Typically, reirradiation can result in fatal levels of toxicity, but using proton therapy in combination with IMPT, researchers found that patients could receive higher doses to the tumor site and experience "fewer local recurrences and improved progression-free survival."

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Also see this video on MD Anderson's Dr. James Cox, and their work with proton therapy and lung cancer: