Protons Target a Rare Tumor Type

After months of sinus discomfort he had attributed to allergies, Noel Pagan finally decided to visit an ear, nose and throat specialist in August 2012. The news was startling. An extremely rare tumor, clival chordoma, was found at the base of his skull.

The tumor was removed by surgeons at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. For follow-up treatment, members of Pagan’s treatment team suggested proton therapy as an option because of the sensitive location of the tumor. Neither Pagan nor his wife, Tracy, was familiar with the treatment. So, they researched proton therapy on the web.

An online video featuring Frank Mackinson, a cancer survivor and the first patient treated at ProCure Proton Therapy Center in Somerset, New Jersey, convinced Pagan that proton therapy was the right choice.

“Seeing someone else go through the process — putting the mask on his face, lying down on the table for treatment — and experiencing minimal side effects was encouraging,” Pagan said. “Knowing that another man underwent treatment and is doing well was hugely important for me.”

Mount Sinai Hospital referred Pagan to Dr. Oren Cahlon, a radiation oncologist and medical director at ProCure New Jersey to see whether he would benefit from proton therapy. He would. Pagan received 41 proton treatments as an outpatient from November 2012 to January 2013.

“Clival chordomas are rare tumors near the base of the brain and skull that can be difficult to treat with standard radiation therapy,” said Dr. Cahlon. “These tumors are ideal targets for the highly precise nature of proton therapy to reduce the risk of tumor recurrence and minimize damage to the brain and visual nerves.”

Chordomas represent a one-in-a-million diagnosis; about 300 Americans are diagnosed with chordomas each year. In recent months however, ProCure New Jersey has successfully treated six chordoma patients.


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