WEB REVIEW – Drawing From The Experience Of Cancer

A few years ago, the cartoonist Matt Freedman started having nagging pain around his ear. No pain reliever seemed to work. In 2012, a bump appeared on his neck. It was a slow-growing, dangerous cancer that had already spread to his lungs.


As Freedman entered treatment for his rare oral cancer, he began to keep a daily journal in words and pictures : part cartoon, part personal history. Each page is filled with drawings, diagrams and explanations of everything from the technical details of proton therapy to his most interior thoughts.


That journal, kept over 60 days of harrowing radiation and chemotherapy, became his new book, « Relatively Indolent But Relentless: A Cancer Treatment Journal ». The title comes from a phrase doctors used to describe his slow, destructive cancer.


Today, Matt is doing fine, even if his cancer is a non-curative disease. « You want to treat it like a chronic disease as much as you can. The tumors in my lungs didn’t grow quite as slowly as we hoped. But, you know, they are indolent, even if they are relentless. … The trick is to stay alive as long as possible and hope somebody invents something. So far, I’m doing my end of the bargain. »

Source : http://www.kqed.org/news/story/2014/05/03/137221/drawing_from_the_experience_of_indolent_but_relentless_cancer


Protons kept Washington State man in the saddle during prostate cancer therapy

Rich Braun has been commuting by bike to his job for seven years. In sun, rain and even snow. Forty-five minutes each workday morning, peddling a bit uphill, with the return trip a speedier 35 minutes.
It’s a ritual by which Rich abides all year long.

Come the weekend, Rich usually lets loose with a 50- or 60-mile trek. “Yeah, I live a pretty active lifestyle,” says the 60-year-old resident of Everett, Washington.

Diagnosed with prostate cancer in February 2012, Rich just assumed his daily commute on two wheels should stop during treatment at SCCA Proton Therapy, A ProCure Center, in Seattle, Washington. “I was kind of concerned,” Rich recalls. “I’m sitting on a bicycle, on this tiny seat right where my prostate is.”

A few days into his nine-week treatment, Rich mentioned to his radiation oncologist he had put his bike riding on hold. “But my doctor said to keep riding if I wanted to: ‘Do what you want to do.’”

So, Rich was back on his commuter bike the next day, heading in to work. And each workday at mid-morning, Rich’s wife would pick him up at his office and drive Rich to his proton beam treatments.

“The last day of my treatment, I took the day off and decided to ride there,” Rich recalls. “It’s like 20-something miles. I just showed up on my bike, and they were kind of in awe.” Rich’s active lifestyle — he also does a lot of cross-country skiing in winter — was a major consideration as he and his wife evaluated prostate cancer treatment options.

His urologist had proposed that his cancer be surgically removed later in the year. There was no urgency to act sooner. And he suggested Rich explore other alternatives such as seeds, hormone therapy and radiation. Protons were not mentioned.

One of the cancer specialists at a local hospital suggested Rich sit in on a support group meeting of prostate cancer patients. Those discussions really opened Rich’s eyes.

“I heard how it went for them,” Rich says. “The more I talked to people, the more I heard about the side effects. And I didn’t like them. Especially the incontinence. There were some guys who still did their workouts. But they just couldn’t do them at the same level as they did before their treatment. They had to be cognizant of not being able to hold it.”

Frustrated about his options, Rich decided to reach out to an old boss of his who had retired years earlier. “He’s someone I really respected,” says Rich. “I remembered he had prostate cancer and had gone away for a couple of months, so I wondered what he had gone away for. He told me he went down to Loma Linda for proton treatments. And he gave me the Proton Bob book.”

At last, Rich thought he may have settled on proton therapy. “Of course, you could have side effects,” he says. “But they just didn’t seem too bad. The only thing I didn’t like was having to go all the way to Loma Linda and be away for a couple of months.”

News about a new proton center being built on the campus of UW Medicine’s Northwest Hospital & Medical Center in Seattle changed everything. “I said, ‘I can wait for six months,’ ” Rich says.

Rich was the first patient in the door when SCCA Proton Therapy, A ProCure Center, opened in March 2013. His PSA was 10.7 when he started his treatments. It dropped to 2.5 once his proton treatments ended. More than a year later, Rich’s PSA is at 0.87.

In August, Rich will ride his 1970s-era road bike — much lighter in weight than his beast of a commuter bike — in the Obliteride cycling event to raise money for cancer research at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Numbers, types of proton therapy clinical studies on the rise

With 14 proton therapy centers currently operating in the United States and an additional 28 up and running worldwide, studies on the efficacy of using proton beam therapy for cancer treatment are being more widely conducted now than ever before.

“Ten years ago, there were only three proton centers operating in the United States, so the number of patients who were being treated and actually could be included in clinical studies was fairly small,” says William Hartsell, M.D., radiation oncologist with Radiation Oncology Consultants, Ltd., and medical director of the CDH Proton Center in Chicago, Illinois.

“But if you look at the percentage of those patients who were enrolled in clinical trials, it was actually a higher percentage than you would see from the conventional radiation therapy population,” he says. “Today, the vast majority of patients receiving proton therapy are either participating in a clinical trial or in a prospective registry trial where we are evaluating their outcomes.”

CDH Proton Center is involved in a number of clinical trials. Among them:

Recurrent tumors

Sponsored through the Abramson Cancer Center at University of Pennsylvania, this study will determine the feasibility of using proton therapy in recurrent malignancies — either at the original disease site or adjacent to it.

“In either case, it’s difficult to give conventional [photon] radiation therapy a second time to that area,” says Dr. Hartsell. “So far, there have been about 150 patients who have been treated in this study, and they’ve done surprisingly well and tolerated the treatment much better than I would have predicted.”

Tumor recurrences being studied include pelvic tumors, such as rectal cancers; abdominal cancers, such as pancreatic cancer; chest cancers, such as lung cancer; head and neck cancers; and brain tumors.

“People who have had one cancer in the mouth or throat are at very high risk for developing a second cancer, due to damage to normal tissues from things like cigarette smoke or even viral infections,” says Dr. Hartsell. “With recurrent brain tumors, patients tolerate treatment with protons and do well, at least as far out as the follow-up that we have, which is still relatively short — one or two years.” (Recurrent brain tumors are being studied with Northwestern University through a separate protocol.)


Shorter treatment protocols

Lung: Working with clinicians at the University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute, Dr. Hartsell and his associates are studying the risks and benefits of hypofractionated proton therapy — that is, giving a higher proton dose along with chemotherapy over a shorter period — to treat lung cancer. The treatment course has been shortened from seven and a half weeks to four weeks, with the goal of reducing the course of treatment to between two and a half weeks and three weeks.

Prostate: For men with low-risk (slow-growing tumor) prostate cancer, the standard treatment frequency with protons is once daily five days a week for about eight weeks. In this study, through the Proton Collaborative Group, participants are randomly assigned to either the standard treatment or a course of hypofractionated proton treatments: five treatments over a week and a half. Two out of every three men get the shorter treatment course. So far, 100 men are in the study.

“Thus far, there doesn’t seem to be any difference in how the men are doing,” says Dr. Hartsell. “We need longer follow-up to make sure that’s the case in the long run. But in the short run, they’re tolerating [the accelerated] treatment really well.”

The CDH Proton Center is also conducting studies on locally advanced breast cancer, and intermediate- and high-risk prostate cancers.

In the past, proton therapy has been criticized for its lack of clinical studies and data comparing its efficacy with that of other types of cancer treatments. Now that tide is shifting. “I think that criticism was valid only because there were not enough proton centers to do the studies,” says Dr. Hartsell. “Now there is a critical mass of proton centers to perform them.”



WEB REVIEW – 12-year-old boy flies to USA for cancer treatment

Adrian Secareanu, 12, has flown to Florida to have life-saving treatment for a rare type of cancer, a mucoepidermoid carcinoma, found in his neck and jaw.

Adrian underwent several operations to remove his tumor. He is now having specialist proton therapy to prevent it from returning in a more aggressive form.

Chesterfield-based national charity Kids ‘N’ Cancer recently launched a campaign to help Adrian and his family raise £10,000 to allow them to take time off work and join him in Florida.

The family will spend a minimum of three months in America for the treatment.

Waiting at Heathrow airport, Adrian’s mother Corina said: “In a weird way we are excited to go out there. Adrian will be receiving the proton treatment he needs and we’re hopeful that it will go well for him.”

Adrian said: “I’d like to thank everyone at Kids ‘N’ Cancer so much for the help they have given me and my family. Without all of their hard work I would not be going to America for this opportunity.”



WEB REVIEW – Proton therapy for Hodgkin lymphoma

Many patients with Hodgkin lymphoma suffer from late effects of radiation therapy and chemotherapy treatment, including the possible onset of breast cancer or heart disease. Early evidence suggests proton therapy offers safer long-term results.

A study by the University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute (UFPTI) shows that the use of proton therapy following chemotherapy in patients with Hodgkin lymphoma has a success rate similar to the conventional treatments with a reduction of radiation outside of the target area, or “involved-node”, potentially reducing the risk of late effects caused by radiation.

The study tracked 15 patients between September 2009 and June 2013 with newly diagnosed Hodgkin lymphoma as they received involved-node proton therapy (INPT). The data shows a three-year relapse-free rate of 93% and a three-year event-free rate of 87%. In addition, no patients developed grade three or higher toxicity during follow-up.


Lead researcher Bradford S. Hoppe, M.D., radiation oncologist at UFPTI said: “Three years after the National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines endorsed the use of proton therapy, this study reinforces proton therapy as a safe alternative to the more conventional forms of radiation”.



WEB REVIEW : British cancer boy’s letter from America

12 year-old boyis currently undergoing proton therapy in Jacksonville, Florida, for a rare tumor in his neck and jaw. He is the only child in the UK and the third childin the world to be diagnosed with a mucoepidermoid tumor.


In response to Adrian’s remarkable story, Princethorpe College house coordinator Laura Miller rallied support and held a charity day involving over 600 pupils, 60 members of staff and scores of balloons. The aim was to raise thousands for Kids’n Cancer, the charity supporting Adrian and his family. Staff and students at Princethorpe College hope to raise more than £1,000.


Adrian sent a heartfelt letter to thank the fundraisers at his school: “I will be thinking about you all today,” wrote Adrian. “I hope the weather stays good and that you have fun, but most of all I hope to be back in school soon.”


Source : http://www.rugbyadvertiser.co.uk/news/local-news/poorly-rugby-boy-s-letter-from-america-1-6138039

WEB REVIEW – Young musician losing his eye to cancer

Seb James, a 23-year-old musician, went to the dentist with toothache and ended up being diagnosed with cancer and losing one of his eyes. Now wearing an eye patch, he tries to look on the positive side of life.


Seb is lead guitarist and lead singer with Callow Saints, and music got him through the darkest days of his life. He was just 21 when he had his wisdom tooth removed. But when the wound didn’t heal he was sent to hospital in Oxford where he was diagnosed with cancer in his right sinus.


Seb had six sessions of chemotherapy over six months, lost his hair, felt terribly ill and lost a lot of weight. He was then told that he would need an operation but it would involve losing his eye. He said: “I took it pretty hard, it was worse than being told I had cancer. But I had to come to terms with it, it was my eye or my life.”


Seb then endured four more sessions of chemotherapy before learning that an NHS panel had decided to send him to America for three months for specialist proton therapy treatment, a more exact form of radiotherapy.


Now, technically, he is clear, but he still has regular check ups. “The patch has become my identity, makes me more individual and it does make me look damn good on stage.”


Source : http://www.bucksherald.co.uk/news/more-news/a-patch-does-make-me-look-damn-good-on-stage-musician-who-lost-eye-through-cancer-talks-about-his-new-identity-1-5999202

WEB REVIEW – PT : safest radiation treatment for pediatric tumors

If your child was diagnosed with cancer, you would want to find the best, smartest and most pain-free treatment available. For a growing number of pediatric patients and their parents, it is clear that proton beam radiation may be the most desirable course of action to pursue. But sadly, that too many patients and their doctors remain unfamiliar with proton therapy and its documented benefits.

This unawareness is partly due to the fact that there are only 12 proton therapy centers in the US. Combined, these centers treat approximately 10,000 patients a year, or less than 1% of all patients diagnosed with cancer. However, far from experimental, proton therapy has been greatly refined over the past two decades, and medical literature testifies to the efficacy of proton therapy for both adults and children and shows the lower incidence of secondary malignancies compared with photon therapy.

Conventional radiation therapy delivers large doses to ensure harm to all the cancer cells, but some undesirable energy finds its way beyond the tumor and causes unnecessary damage in healthy tissues. Children are more sensitive to radiation, and standard X-rays are often avoided, specifically under 3 years old because it can affect  growth and development.

In contrast, proton beams are specifically programmed to reach the exact depth needed to release their maximum energy. As a result, the treatment benefits are significantly maximized while unwanted side effects are greatly reduced. In short, because of the proton beam’s characteristics, we can increase the dose to target tumors in children while reducing the impact on surrounding normal tissues, which increases the likelihood of effective tumor control.

Most specifically, proton therapy has been particularly effective in treating three different types of pediatric cancers: brain tumors (i.e. the most common pediatric cancer), pediatric eye cancer and pediatric tumors at the base of the skull and along the spine : proton therapy minimizes the potentially damaging effects of radiation on the neighboring structures, which is crucial for tumors near critical vital organs.

Proton therapy treatment also has the added advantage of being both non-invasive and painless. The patient even enjoys a better quality of life after the treatment as compared to conventional X-rays (less side effects, etc.).

For more than two decades, proton therapy has been making a difference in the lives of people with many different types of cancers – from prostate to breast to lung. Now is the time to embrace this modality as a powerful tool to fight cancer in children.


WEB REVIEW – Bella’s benefit

Isabella ‘Bella’ Rennie has just turned 3. Weeks before her 2nd birthday in January 2012 she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Her life and her family’s changed forever.

Bella had been a healthy girl, apart from the usual colds and a bout of chickenpox. For a long period, she displayed a head tilt, and in late 2011, she began to display facial asymmetry and have trouble fully closing her left eye. On 11 January, following an MRI scan, Bella’s doctors found a tumor pressing on her brain stem and running through crucial nerves, causing weakness on the left side of her face.

She had to undergo 7 hours of surgery. The neurosurgeon amazingly managed to resect 70% of the tumor. Taking anymore would have left Bella severely disabled. As the family were planning to have Bella home in time for her little sister’s 1st birthday in June, Bella’s low grade brain tumor began to showing signs of enhancement, and another tumor had grown on her spinal cord.

The many rounds of chemo only stabilized her tumors, and Bella now needs a trip to USA for proton beam therapy in hope for a cure. If you want to help her go through this ordeal, please visit http://gogetfunding.com/project/bella-s-benefit. Thank you in advance on behalf of Isabella and her family and friends.



WEB REVIEW – Rising preference for non-surgical treatment

According to a new report by Global Industry Analysts, cancer patient show a rising preference for radiation therapy over surgical treatment options.

Radiation therapy involves the use of high-energy radioactive particles or electromagnetic waves to destroy cancer cells, shrink tumors and repair physiological abnormalities.

The growth in the radiation therapy equipment market is primarily driven by rising incidence of cancer (due to aging population, lifestyle changes, dietary habits, and high smoking rates), but is also fueled by technological improvements in molecular and biological imaging techniques and tumor markers which allow radiotherapy to be increasingly personalized.

The United States is the largest market worldwide. Growth in the country is driven by aging population vulnerable to cancer, increasing preference for non-surgical options, and faster adoption of novel therapies.

Over the past few decades, radiotherapy has witnessed a paradigm shift due to significant advancements in medical technologies. There has been a gradual transition from traditional technologies to highly complex, resource intensive treatment procedures (4D imaging, intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT), proton therapy, stereotactic body radiation therapy), facilitating clinicians in improving the accuracy and precision of radiotherapy.