WEB REVIEW — More kids treated with proton therapy

According to a study released by the Pediatric Proton Foundation (PPF) and the National Association for Proton Therapy (NAPT), the number of children with brain and spinal cancers treated with proton therapy in the U.S. has risen 33% since 2010.

465 pediatric patients were treated with proton therapy in 2010 and 613 in 2011. In 2012, they were 694, 57% of them being less than 10 years old, with a curable brain tumor or axial sarcoma, the survey reports.

“Parents need to understand that proton therapy offers distinct advantages for their child’s treatment over traditional radiation,” said Susan Ralston, Executive Director of the PPF. ”As the mother of a young child who was diagnosed with spinal Ewing sarcoma and was able to receive proton therapy, my goal is to help other families by ensuring that they get good information about the options for their children.”

Conventional radiotherapy (X-rays) for pediatric brain tumors has been associated with long-term neurocognitive deficits, including decreases in IQ, difficulties with attention, processing speed and executive skills. Proton therapy is known for its tremendous advantages in treating certain pediatric cancers. The dose delivered outside the tumor is reduced, as well as the probability of secondary malignancies. This is especially critical for children, as the risk for long-term survivors to develop radiation-induced tumor may reach 25%.

“Even with 11 operating centers in the U.S. now,” Ms. Ralston said, “access remains an issue because as many as 3,000 newly diagnosed children might be candidates for proton therapy each year, but we do not have the capacity to treat all of them. The good news is that many more new centers should become operational in the next 5 years, which will allow more children to take advantage of this advanced technology.”

The survey reports that the 4 most common tumor diagnoses treated with Proton Therapy were ependymoma, medullablastoma, low grade glioma and rhabdomyosarcoma. 19% of the children treated in 2012 came from outside the US. ”This data reflects the growing international perception that proton therapy may offer an advantage in children with brain tumors and sarcomas.