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Proton therapy in the clinic



Proton therapy in the clinic



Frontiers of Radiation Therapy and Oncology 43: 465-485



The clinical advantage for proton radiotherapy over photon approaches is the marked reduction in integral dose to the patient, due to the absence of exit dose beyond the proton Bragg peak. The integral dose with protons is approximately 60% lower than that with any external beam photon technique. Pediatric patients, because of their developing normal tissues and anticipated length of remaining life, are likely to have the maximum clinical gain with the use of protons. Proton therapy may also allow treatment of some adult tumors to much more effective doses, because of normal tissue sparing distal to the tumor. Currently, the most commonly available proton treatment technology uses 3D conformal approaches based on (a) distal range modulation, (b) passive scattering of the proton beam in its x- and y-axes, and (c) lateral beam-shaping. It is anticipated that magnetic pencil beam scanning will become the dominant mode of proton delivery in the future, which will lower neutron scatter associated with passively scattered beam lines, reduce the need for expensive beam-shaping devices, and allow intensity-modulated proton radiotherapy. Proton treatment plans are more sensitive to variations in tumor size and normal tissue changes over the course of treatment than photon plans, and it is expected that adaptive radiation therapy will be increasingly important for proton therapy as well. While impressive treatment results have been reported with protons, their cost is higher than for photon IMRT. Hence, protons should ideally be employed for anatomic sites and tumors not well treated with photons. While protons appear cost-effective for pediatric tumors, their cost-effectiveness for treatment of some adult tumors, such as prostate cancer, is uncertain. Comparative studies have been proposed or are in progress to more rigorously assess their value for a variety of sites. The utility of proton therapy will be enhanced by technological developments that reduce its cost. Combinations of 3D protons with IMRT photons may offer improved treatment plans at lower cost than pure proton plans. Hypofractionation with proton therapy appears to be safe and cost-effective for many tumor sites, such as for selected liver, lung and pancreas cancers, and may yield significant reduction in the cost of a therapy course. Together, these offer practical strategies for expanding the clinical availability of proton therapy.

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Accession: 055260537

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PMID: 21625169

DOI: 10.1159/000322511


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