Check out the latest news about proton therapy: this week, find out how this state-of-the-art treatment modality is giving hope to patients in the middle of their fight against cancer.
ALFIE SET FOR BRAIN TUMOR TREATMENT IN THE US
Five-year-old Alfie Smith from the UK needs to go to America for treatment for his rare brain tumor, and his family are asking for help.
Little Alfie first experienced a swollen eye at Christmas in 2014. As it still hadn’t healed in February, his mom Tina took him to the doctors and experienced every mom’s worst nightmare when she was told that her son had a brain tumor called meningioma, which is very rare in children. Since then, Alfie has had several operations and now needs one final operation before he flies out to America for proton therapy. “They can’t cure it. All they can do is treat it. It involves too much bone, they will never remove it all. But hopefully the protons will stop it from growing,” Tina said. Alfie has been referred overseas by the NHS, who will cover the cost of the treatment and give the basic costs to cover two people going out with Alfie and basic costs to cover somewhere to stay and food. The family are looking to spend around eight weeks in Florida or Oklahoma at a hospital while Alfie receives the treatment. Tina started a fundraising page to help the family with additional living costs while they are out there and to help keep their family house running in Westham while they are away. The family are also hoping to fundraise to take one of Alfie’s older brothers, Jordan, 17, with them. Proton therapy is 94% effective on adult tumors, but doctors don’t know how effective it will be for Alfie, as it’s so rare in children. Through it all, Alfie, who also has Asperger’s Spectrum Disorder, has been really resilient and is always thinking of his family. Tina said: “He takes it all in his stride. Nothing phases him.”
MEDULLOBLASTOMA PATIENT A DECADE CANCER-FREE
A lot has changed since Ana-Kate Partridge was the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center’s first pediatric patient 10 years ago. In the past decade, the center has treated more than 1,000 children, and Ana-Kate has grown into a lively preteen who is now cancer-free.
When she was 6 months old, Ana-Kate was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a common brain tumor in children. After it was removed surgically, she received chemotherapy. But just after her second birthday, another tumor appeared, and a second surgery was performed. Meanwhile, the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center had just opened, and after undergoing radiation therapy, Ana-Kate was given proton therapy at the sites of both tumors. “My husband, Ron, researched proton therapy, and we just felt like its potential advantages and low risk of side effects were worth a shot,” said Ana-Kate’s mother. “It was a good decision that we are so glad we made.” After eight weeks of proton therapy, Ana-Kate returned home for chemotherapy. Since being declared cancer-free 10 years ago, Shawn has never looked back. At age 12, she’s a bundle of energy with a long list of interests, her mother says. In school, she’s had a few challenges due to medulloblastoma side effects, but with a little extra help, she’s staying on the same level as her classmates. Each year, Shawn brings Ana-Kate back to MD Anderson for an MRI and a visit with her physicians. And every year for the past 10, they’ve gotten good news. The cancer remains a distant memory.
PROTON THERAPY SAVES NEW MOM’S EYESIGHT
Rhea Birusingh is a 37-year-old new mother who was diagnosed with a tumor behind her eye during her pregnancy. Her sight will be saved thanks to the remarkable technology of proton therapy, which is providing new hope to patients with inoperable tumors.
Rhea began experiencing blurry vision and thought it was due to her pregnancy. But when she went to see her opthamologist, she was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor located behind her right eye, which was feeding on the same hormones associated with her pregnancy. Because of the tumor’s location, it was deemed inoperable, and without proton therapy, Rhea would face declining memory and loss of her eyesight. “Unfortunately, even with just one scan, we knew the tumor was in the worst location possible,” said Birusingh. In order to treat the tumor, Rhea was induced at 34 weeks, and became the first patient to be treated with proton beam therapy at the new Marjorie and Leonard Williams Center for Proton Therapy at Orlando Health. “Proton treatment allows a great clinical benefit in protecting the normal areas surrounding the tumor,” says Dr. Ramakrishna, the director of the center. “It also reduces the incidence of stroke and radiation-induced secondary cancers.” Proton therapy is thus especially beneficial for both adult and pediatric patients with tumors near critical structures like the spine, brain and optic nerve, which can be affected by traditional radiation therapy. The proton therapy center at Orlando Health took four years to build and is expected to treat as many as 20 patients a day who have cancers of the brain, spine, prostate, lung, breast, gastrointestinal tract, head and neck, as well as pediatric cancers.