Proton Therapy

Proton Therapy for Brain and Spinal Cord Cancer

Proton therapy is a form of radiation treatment that targets protons at tumors to kill cancer cells. It delivers higher, more effective doses of radiation than traditional X-ray radiation therapy with great precision, significantly limiting radiation exposure to surrounding healthy tissue. There are fewer short- and long-term side effects with proton therapy compared with standard X-ray radiation.

Your team may recommend proton therapy if you have a tumor that is near delicate or vitally important tissues or if you have a primary brain cancer that generally starts and stays in the brain. Children who have brain tumors are often referred for proton therapy to avoid the potential long-term complications of traditional radiation therapy. Proton therapy can be used after surgery, chemotherapy, and standard X-ray radiation treatment. It can be used to treat recurrent tumors, even if you have already received radiation.

Brain Tumors Treated with Proton Therapy

The types of brain tumors we may treat with proton therapy include:

  • Low-grade gliomas
    • Anaplastic astrocytomas
    • Oligoastrocytomas
    • Oligodendrogliomas
  • Ependymomas
  • Pineal tumors (pineoblastomas)
  • Embryonal tumors
    • Medulloblastomas
    • Central nervous system primitive neuroectodermal tumors (PNETs)
    • Atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumors
  • Sellar tumors
    • Pituitary tumors
    • Craniopharyngiomas
  • Meningiomas
  • Germ cell tumors
  • Supratentorial PNETs

Receiving Proton Therapy

Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) patients receive proton therapy at the SCCA Proton Therapy Center, located on UW Medicine’s Northwest Hospital & Medical Center campus (view map and directions). A complete proton therapy session can range from 30 to 45 minutes due to the time spent positioning the patient; the time spent delivering protons to the tumor is only about one minute. If your doctors recommend proton therapy for you, they will talk with you about this option.

Learn more about proton therapy for brain and spinal cord cancers.