Check out the latest news about proton therapy: this week, find out how this state-of-the-art treatment modality has shown to be the best choice for many patients with cancer.
10-YEAR-OLD DEFEATS BRAIN TUMOR WITH PROTON THERAPY
10-year-old Annabelle Higgins from Ramsgate, UK is recovering from a tumor in her brain after travelling to Oklahoma, USA for proton beam therapy. She was one of 140 people funded by the NHS to go overseas for the treatment last year.
Annabelle was diagnosed with a brain tumor called pilocytic astrocytoma in June 2012. During her operation in July 2012, surgeons were able to remove 98% of the tumor, but they had to leave a bit of it as it was right on the brain stem. “They hoped the blood supply to the remaining sliver would be cut off and it would wither and die, unfortunately in January 2015 we were given the sad news that it had not occurred”, her dad Stephen said. Anabelle underwent another operation in March 2015, where they discovered that part of the tumor had grown into the brain stem. Her case was then reviewed and her family were told she seemed to fit the criteria for proton therapy, which only about 1% of patients fit. “We had to go through a funding panel at the NHS because treatment is done abroad – we got agreement and we were sent to one of the overseas centres in Oklahoma City”, Stephen said. The family travelled to America in June 2015 for 10 weeks. During treatment, Annabelle was more tired than usual and lost some hair, but apart from that was able to carry on as normal. She said: “You have a mask on, then you lay on a special table and there is a big machine and a beam which points at a specific area where the tumor would be and it zaps it.” She continued : “I’m now putting the past behind me and trying to forget about it all and look forward.”
PROTON THERAPY WAS THE RIGHT WAY
In 2010, mom-of-four Sara Bell refused radiotherapy for her only son, Brandon, who had been diagnosed with a rare brain tumor called craniopharyngioma at just 12 years old. She opted for a more advanced form of treatment against her doctor’s advice.
Sara was a student radiographer at the time and knew proton therapy would result in far fewer
side-effects for Brandon going forward. When she was told he wasn’t eligible for the procedure in the UK due to his age, Sara and her husband managed to fundraise the 200,000£ needed to have him treated at a specialist center in Florida. Brandon is now a healthy, 18-year-old college student, but it wasn’t always easy for Sara : “I have to admit I did doubt myself, but I knew in my heart I was doing the right thing. It was a huge weight on my shoulders because it was really my decision at the start, and I had knowledge of it.” Now, Brandon is doing well. His side-effects are manageable and he’s able to live a normal life. “He’s currently in second year of an HND in electronic engineering. He does suffer from really bad fatigue but he just looks like a normal, healthy boy. The type of tumor he has will never go away but there’s been no regrowth since the proton therapy”, Sara said. “We’ll never know what would have happened had Brandon got radiotherapy instead but there are a number of people with this type of tumor who have a lot of side-effects”, she added. “I hope that one day, whether you’re an adult or a child, everybody gets the chance of having the best possible treatment available and the opportunity to survive.”
PROSTATE CANCER VICTIM RECALLS TREATMENT
When sexagenarian Jeff Olson got the news that he had stage 1 prostate cancer after a routine exam that revealed a high PSA level, he was really scared, but he didn’t lay down arms and started researching treatment options.
“The first words out of my urologist’s mouth were, ‘I can cut it out robotically and there will be no problems,’” Jeff said. “But I did my research and learned that involved a lot of side effects, among them potential incontinence and erectile dysfunction. Then someone asked if I had ever heard of proton therapy. Most doctors I spoke to hadn’t heard of it.” He thus started doing research and learned about ProCure, the Proton Therapy Center in Oklahoma City. That’s where he decided to receive his treatment, as his half-sister lives just 6 minutes from there. His prostate cancer involved 44 treatments – the largest number of treatments for any of the specific types of cancer, which were given during 5 minutes, 5 days a week for 9 weeks. When he was receiving his treatment in Oklahoma, there were patients from England, Canada and all over the United States. He underwent the 9 weeks and graduated from the treatment program on New Year’s Eve, along with a group of other cancer patients that included men, women and children with a long list of cancer types that can be treated with this type of therapy. What was really exciting about the treatment was that there were no side effects, and it was covered by insurance. Cancer-free after the procedures, he would need to send in his PSA level three months later, and then again in another 6 months, whith no other follow-up needed.