Proton therapy is now available to cancer patients in the Pacific Northwest for the first time. Our doctors are excited to have proton therapy as part of their arsenal in making the most targeted and effective treatments available to patients. An advanced form of radiation treatment, proton therapy can be calibrated with great precision to selectively kill cancer cells.
The SCCA Proton Therapy, A ProCure Center, located on UW Medicine's Northwest Hospital & Medical Center campus, benefits patients in our region who no longer need to travel to other parts of the country for a multi-week course of treatment. Because of the significant investment required in building and operating a proton therapy facility, this treatment is available in only about a dozen sites in the U.S.
The clinical benefits proton therapy offers over standard X-ray treatment for certain types of cancer are becoming increasingly well known. The accuracy of the delivery of proton radiation, for example, reduces damage to the healthy tissues and organs surrounding tumors. Other benefits include fewer side effects, including a decreased risk of developing secondary tumors (cancers that result from radiation treatment).
Who Can Benefit from Proton Therapy?
Virtually all doctors who specialize in radiation therapy agree that the most critical use of this technology is in treating children. Children are more prone to secondary cancers than adults. The risk of secondary cancers is correlated with the amount of irradiated tissue; since proton therapy is more efficient in sparing normal tissue, it reduces the likelihood of these follow-on cancers occurring in later years. Studies show that using proton therapy to treat certain pediatric tumors provides excellent results.
In adults, proton therapy can also be beneficial in treating a broad range of cancerous—and some non-cancerous—tumors, including those of the brain, central nervous system, gastrointestinal tract, head and neck, lung and prostate, as well as sarcomas. The advantages of proton therapy over standard X-ray treatment are similar to those experienced by pediatric patients. Proton therapy is most commonly recommended for adult patients in treating anatomically complex tumors where avoiding damage to healthy adjoining tissue—particularly critical organs and structures—is imperative.
SCCA’s Mandate to Improve Outcomes for our Patients
Proton therapy is an emerging technology, and there is much that remains unclear about its cost-benefit profile relative to other radiation therapies. Our doctors view the new SCCA Proton Therapy, A ProCure Center as a tremendous opportunity to take the lead in active clinical investigations that will help define the role of proton therapy in future cancer treatment.
Our goal in partnering with ProCure is to provide patients with access to this technology in cases where its efficacy over standard X-ray treatment is clinically compelling. Ongoing studies conducted by Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) doctors will help chart a clear course for the use of proton radiation in achieving the best possible outcomes in treating cancer.