Proton Beam Therapy of Liver

  • Medical Author:
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

  • Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

What is proton beam therapy and for what is it used?

Proton beam therapy is a type of radiation therapy that uses protons instead of X-rays (photons) and can be used for the treatment of various solid tumors, including liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma or HCC). Protons are positively charged particles that, produced with high energy, can destroy cancer cells. Proton beam therapy is able to deliver targeted high doses of protons to a defined local area, minimizing damage to surrounding tissue and reducing side effects. The ideal patient with HCC for this treatment has only a small (less than 5 centimeters in diameter) solitary lesion (tumor) though benefit in a few patients with larger tumors has been described.

Proton therapy may be used by itself, or along with other treatments including standard radiation therapy, surgery, chemotherapy, and/or immunotherapy. It also may be used when surgery is contraindicated.

Proton beam therapy is used for patients who have tumors that are solid with well-defined borders that have not spread (metastasized) to other parts of the body.

Why is proton beam therapy used?

Proton beam therapy is used to treat several types of solid tumors including HCC. Proton beam therapy allows physicians to better control what tissues are affected by the radiation and, at the same, reduce damage to healthy surrounding tissue and vital organs.

X-ray therapy or traditional radiation causes more damage to the healthy tissues surrounding a targeted tumor while proton beam therapy radiation is able to more precisely target cancerous tumors.

Proton beam therapy may be useful in treating cancer that is located in a critical area where it is important to preserve the surrounding tissue as much as possible (for example, tumors in the brain, spinal cord, or in the eye). It may also be quite beneficial in children because standard radiation can damage developing organs and have long-term effects in children. Proton beam therapy minimizes the damage and long-term effects.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/4/2015

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