WEB REVIEW – Proton therapy for children with tumors near the brainstem

According to a new study, proton therapy can be used safely and effectively to treat pediatric sarcomas and brain tumors adjacent to the brainstem.

The study’s findings were presented in October 2013 at the American Society for Radiation Oncology’s 55th annual meeting, held in Atlanta (GA, USA), by lead researcher Daniel J. Indelicato, MD, associate professor at the University of Florida, in the department of radiation oncology. The study describes the findings of 313 children who received a high radiation dose to the area around the brainstem, and is the largest of this type ever presented.

More than 90% of these children treated at UF Proton Therapy Institute (UFPTI, Jacksonville, USA) since 2006 survived beyond two years and the rate of serious side effects involving the brainstem was of 2%.

“This study provides important evidence that proton therapy may be safely delivered to our most vulnerable patients with challenging tumors,” said Dr. Indelicato. “Whenever a child experiences a side effect from radiation that impacts the brainstem, it is a very serious and potentially life-threatening event. Across our entire discipline, regardless of the treatment modality, pediatric radiation oncologists need more information to identify patients at risk. This study contributes valuable radiation dose parameters to help guide the design of safe radiation treatment plans.”

Most of the children treated at the UFPTI have tumors in this critical location near the base of the skull and spinal cord. Proton therapy provides an advantage in these children, because the developing brain is exposed to less radiation. Moreover, proton therapy may limit the dose to a child’s hearing, hormone, and vision centers neighboring the tumor.

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