Combatting cancer with proton therapy

Health care professionals at the University of Florida Health Cancer Center in Orlando are implementing proton therapy as a new way to combat cancer. Compared to traditional radiation treatments, proton therapy is far more precise in focusing radiation, which is critical in treating brain and spine cancer.

TRANSCRIPT

Health care professionals at the University of Florida Health Cancer Center in Orlando are implementing proton therapy as a new way to combat cancer.

Compared to traditional radiation treatments, proton therapy is far more precise in focusing radiation, which is critical in treating brain and spine cancer.

Here's the story.

Central Florida has a new tool to combat cancer.

In April 2016, the UF Health Cancer Center at Orlando Health opened a facility that offers proton therapy.

Proton therapy uses charged particles, protons, instead of X-rays, which is what we've used for conventional radiation.

Proton therapy releases radiation more precisely in a way that X-rays can't.

X-rays will go into the body and then release radiation in the tumor but also release radiation past the tumor.

Protons, on the other hand, go into the body, but when they reach the tumor, they release all of their dose.

And then there's no dose beyond the tumor.

So this allows us to treat cancers, especially in very sensitive locations, with less risk to the patient.

In a way, it's like a controlled explosion right inside of the tumor.

The Proton Therapy Center at Orlando Health is the first of its kind in Central Florida and one of only 23 in the country.

Proton therapy is a better type of treatment for a variety of cancers.

Some of them are going to be cancers that are located in very critical areas like the brain, the eye, the spinal cord or other very sensitive parts of the body.

Basically, proton therapy delivers less radiation to the body to treat the tumor the same amount.

And often, that magnitude is 50 percent.

Sometimes, it's 60, 70 percent less total radiation to the body to achieve the same effect inside the tumor.

Angie Oswald is battling a rare and aggressive brain tumor, called a hemangiopericytoma.

After nine years and two surgeries, the cancer has returned again.

This time, proton therapy will keep her off the operating table and should limit long-term side effects.

They're able to treat a fairly large area and actually two areas at one time, which is pretty amazing.

And so the idea is that this cancer won't grow back in these areas.

And ideally, I could be cancer-free indefinitely.

Angela has an extremely rare tumor.

And she's being treated with an exceptionally complex treatment plan that targets some of the lining of the brain but also some of the major veins that are inside the brain.

And what we end up creating is a extremely complex shape that reflects the anatomy of the brain and the distribution of the tumor.

It's 10 times better than the surgeries just because I'm able to live my life.

I'm able to work.

I'm able to be home every day.

With the surgeries, it was definitely, um, life-changing.

I had to leave work.

I had to take time off.

Um, I had to have family come take care of me.

I was thrilled when I found out I did not have to have another surgery.

I think that's really the best part, is just being able to continue with everyday life and with minimal impact to my family and my daily life.

If we had used conventional radiation, the amount of brain that would've been treated would've been extremely large.

And that would've had effects for the rest of her life.

It would've increased the risk of stroke, increased the risk of vision loss.

It would've increased the risk also of neurocognitive change.

So, using protons, we're able to limit the dose extremely well to just the areas we need to treat.

As a person that treats pediatric cancer and brain tumors, I want to give my patients the best.

And I finally can tell them that we are giving them something that's as good or better than any treatment available in the world.

Proton treatment lets us treat these patients in a way that's effective for tumors and has the lowest risk of causing them side effects, not just in the next few weeks or months, but for the rest of their lives.