Proton Beam Therapy of Liver

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What is proton beam therapy and for what is it used? Proton beam therapy is a form of radiation therapy that can be used for the treatment of various solid tumors, including liver cancer (Hepatocellular Carcinoma, HCC). This technique is able to deliver high doses of a special type of radiation called a proton beam to a defined local area. The ideal HCC patient for this treatment has only a small (<5 cm) solitary lesion (tumor).

How is proton beam therapy done?To have this procedure done, the patient actually is fitted with a body cast so that he or she can be placed in the identical position for each session. The proton beam is invisible and painless. It is pointed the exact same area during each brief treatment. Therapy is conducted 5 days per week, usually for 15 days.

How effective is this therapy in treating liver cancer?There are not much data yet regarding the efficacy of this treatment in liver cancer. Preliminary data from the U.S. suggest similar effectiveness as seen with TACE (chemoembolization) or ablation (using radiofrequency or alcohol) for the treatment of HCC. It is not known, however, whether this type of radiation treatment prolongs the life of the patient.

Medically reviewed by Jay B. Zatzkin, MD; American Board of Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Medical Oncology

REFERENCES: Garden OJ, Rees M, Poston GJ, Mirza D, Saunders M, Ledermann J, Primrose JN, Parks RW. Guidelines for resection of colorectal cancer liver metastases. Gut. 2006 Aug;55 Suppl 3:iii1-8.

Brown DB, Geschwind JF, Soulen MC, Millward SF, Sacks D. Society of Interventional Radiology position statement on chemoembolization of hepatic malignancies. J Vasc Interv Radiol. 2006 Feb;17(2 Pt 1):217-23.

Bruix J, Sherman M; Practice Guidelines Committee, American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases. Management of hepatocellular carcinoma. Hepatology. 2005 Nov;42(5):1208-36.

Medically Reviewed by Paul Oneill, MD, Board Certified Oncology

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/3/2014