From the blog

Proton Therapy Could Help Patients with Mesothelioma

Published: September 12, 2019

Radiation therapy, which uses intense energy beams to kill cancer cells, is a very common treatment for cancer. There are different types of radiation, but the most common type is X-rays. Radiation is also useful for preventing cancer from returning, or stopping or slowing its growth. The radiation breaks up DNA inside cancer cells, preventing them from growing and dividing. While the radiation is primarily focused on the tumor being treated, radiation can be dosed to other parts of the body. The radiation then affects normal cells, but they are usually able to repair themselves and continue working. This is still problematic though because the healthy area damaged by the radiation could exhibit symptoms later on.

Proton therapy is a different, yet similar form of radiation therapy. It still uses radiation, but uses protons instead of X-rays to attack cancer cells. A large machine called a synchrotron or cyclotron speeds up protons, which are then pointed toward the body. This gives the right amount of radiation to the tumor and ensures the surrounding tissue does not get as much radiation. The surrounding tissue could end up receiving 60 percent less radiation, while the tumor itself receives more radiation compared to the typical radiation treatment that uses X-rays.

Proton therapy is not normally used for mesothelioma, but it could be a useful and widely used treatment for the disease. Currently radiation therapy is used for palliative care, which reduces a patient’s symptoms. In a study looking at radiation therapy, 29 treatments were given to 17 patients, with four out of 6 being treated seeing symptom relief. Proton beam therapy also could be good for mesothelioma patients because the dose of radiation can be very targeted. With regular radiation treatments, the majority of the radiation hits just under the skin, but with proton therapy, the strongest dose goes to the end of the proton beam’s range, which would be the mesothelioma tumor. The proximity of mesothelioma tumors to the lungs, heart, liver, kidneys, and spinal cord also makes it hard for radiation to be effective. Proton therapy fixes this and prevents the radiation from going to the adjacent organs. The radiation is able to go to the specific area and hit the tumor with the highest levels possible.

Radiation therapy increases the survival time of patients with mesothelioma and alleviates their symptoms. Proton therapy, a specific type of radiation, could help these patients while preventing other organs from being hit with radiation as well. With different medical advancements like proton therapy, there is hope for mesothelioma sufferers. New treatments can extend people’s lives while also improving their quality of life.


“Proton Therapy” ASCO [Link]

“Radiation therapy” Mayo Clinic [Link]

“Radiation Therapy Basics” American Cancer Society [Link]

Shahed N. Badiyan, “Proton beam therapy for malignant pleural mesothelioma” Translational Lung Cancer Research (April 2018). [Link]

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