Proton Therapy

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Brain and Spinal Cord Cancers

Whether their brain tumor is malignant or benign, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) patients have access to the most advanced technologies and treatments available. For many patients, this may include proton therapy at SCCA Proton Therapy, A ProCure Center.

At SCCA, we offer treatment for every type of brain cancer and tumor, including meningiomas, gliomas, pituitary tumors, vestibular schwannomas, central nervous system lymphomas, and metastatic cancers in the brain and spinal cord. Learn more about  SCCA’s comprehensive approach to brain tumor treatment

Proton Therapy for Brain Tumors

If your oncologist recommends proton therapy for your brain tumor, this will be based on many factors, including the type of tumor and its location, along with your overall health and personal treatment objectives.

Treatment for brain tumors often encompasses a combination of therapies, including X-ray and/or proton radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy. As with all radiation therapies, proton therapy is generally used after surgery has been performed, to destroy any remaining cancer cells. However, proton therapy is also used for tumors that cannot be removed surgically. Among proton therapy’s advantages is the ability of radiation oncologists to apply potentially higher doses of radiation to target a brain tumor, while causing less damage to the surrounding healthy tissues.

Because proton therapy delivery is so precise, it is often the radiation treatment of choice in treating brain tumors—but not always. Although it has proven to be safe and effective, proton therapy remains an emerging technology. Medicine today still lacks comprehensive studies that have definitively measured its benefits over traditional X-ray radiation and other therapies. 

Currently, among the most compelling uses for this technology in brain tumor treatment are:

  • Tumors that impinge on delicate and vitally important tissues and structures 
  • Benign-behaving tumors, and in treating tumors in children, where there is greater concern about the potential long-term complications of radiation therapy 
  • Primary brain cancer tumors, which generally start–and stay–in the brain
  • Following the use of chemotherapy and prior radiation, where repeat radiation treatment with X-rays is ill advised due to toxicity

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
    • CNS primitive neuroectodermal tumors (PNETs)
    • Atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumors
  • Sellar tumors
    • Pituitary tumors
    • Craniopharyngiomas
  • Meningiomas
  • Germ cell tumors
  • Supratentorial PNETs

Clinical Studies on Brain Tumor Treatment at SCCA

SCCA radiation oncologists who specialize in treating brain tumors are excited about the potential proton therapy offers to treat patients effectively—and their ability to evaluate its use in furthering medical science. We plan to take the lead on clinical studies and to collaborate with doctors and researchers at other proton treatment centers to extend our knowledge of its effectiveness and potential clinical superiority.

Among the many questions we hope to examine are issues of:

Dose escalation: Since in many cases we can safely give higher doses of protons per treatment than X-rays, can we shorten the treatment period with comparable or better outcomes for patients? Or, Can we achieve better outcomes with these higher dosages over the same treatment period? 

Combining proton therapy with chemotherapy:  How can we most effectively combine these two treatments? 

Clinical superiority:  In what types of tumors is proton therapy clearly more effective than X-ray therapy?