What is proton therapy and how is it different from standard radiation therapy?

Proton therapy is a more refined form of radiation therapy that uses protons from Hydrogen atoms rather than X-ray radiation.

The practical difference between the two therapies is the distribution and absorption of the radiation. Conventional radiation passes entirely through the patient’s body. Consequently, the radiation from conventional therapy is absorbed by the skin and surrounding organs in the process, which causes varying side effects dependent on the area of the body where the tumor lies.

In contrast, proton therapy stops at the site of the tumor, so it terminates cancerous cells but spares the normal, healthy surrounding tissue. Due to the accuracy of the proton beam, side effects are typically nominal, providing a higher quality of life for a patient throughout their treatment.

What kinds of cancers can be treated with proton therapy?

As proton therapy is another form of radiation, all cancers responsive to conventional radiation will be able to be treated. This includes cancers and tumors in the breasts, brain, prostate, lungs, head and neck, base of the skull, spine and GI malignancies. Proton therapy's minimized side effects also make it an ideal treatment for pediatric patients as they are more susceptible to the side effects of traditional X-ray radiation.

What about reports that question the cost-effectiveness or benefits of proton therapy?

Though past studies have questioned the cost-effectiveness and efficacy of proton therapy, there have been improvements in the involved technology and techniques. With intensity-modulated (pencil beam) proton therapy and image-guided proton therapy, the targeting has become more accurate than previous standards for proton therapy. These changes are expected to lower the costs to the patient over time compared to conventional therapies such as X-ray, chemotherapy and surgery. To further emphasize our patient-centered approach to care, we are providing proton therapy at a comparative or equal cost to traditional radiation therapy.

What is unique about receiving treatment at MPTC?

The Maryland Proton Treatment Center has intensity-modulated proton therapy (also known as pencil-beam) available in each of our five state-of-the-art treatment rooms. This form of therapy provides the most accurate and least harmful form of radiation therapy available. A more precise beam also allows for higher doses of radiation which increases the overall efficacy of the treatment without increasing side effects for the patient.

Continuing the tradition of patient-centered care University of Marlyand Medical Center has been practicing since its inception, we are dedicated to providing a comfortable and convenient treatment experience for our patients. Our concierge team will welcome and assist the patient from beginning to end of the treatment process.

Who are the people that make up the MPTC team?

Our expert team is made up of radiation oncologists, radiation dosimetrists, radiation physicists, nurses, nurse practitioners, therapists, social workers and concierge staff. To organize these talents, we have our executive director William F. Regine, MD, FACR, FACRO.

Dr. Regine has conducted research which defined new standards of care for patients with pancreatic cancer, brain mestastases and malignant spinal cord compression. He also co-edited "Principles and Practices of Stereotactic Radiosurgery", the first comprehensive textbook of its kind. His clinical and research expertise as well as his personable and knowledgeable leadership are indespensable to MPTC.

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