New improved mesothelioma therapy using the latest radiation technology is helping to improve the outlook for today’s mesothelioma patients. Called proton therapy, it gives oncologists and radiologists a much more precise and powerful therapeutic tool to aim at mesothelioma. And it gives mesothelioma patients an option for mesothelioma therapy that is less invasive and more successful.
The Advantage of Mesothelioma Therapy with the New Proton Tool
Mesothelioma therapy that involves radiation therapy can often be problematic because of the potential risk to sensitive tissue. This typically involves the tissue in and around the lungs in pleural mesothelioma, the most prevalent type of mesothelioma.
Because proton therapy is a targeted type of radiation therapy, it can keep the radiation exposure focused on the tumor with reduced excess radiation affecting the lung, heart or esophageal tissues around it. The precision of this type of mesothelioma therapy means it is possible to reduce the risk of side effects to the heart and lungs.
Avoiding unnecessary radiation exposure to a mesothelioma patient’s healthy lung using proton therapy can reduce the risk for complications when compared to standard radiation therapy.
Proton Radiation Versus Regular Radiation for Mesothelioma Therapy: A Published Study
Mesothelioma therapy using proton radiation was explored in a recent scientific study published in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology. The study compared the effects of using proton radiation versus regular radiation in eight patients with pleural mesothelioma. Although the size of the study may seem relatively small, please keep in mind that this is but one of many medical research studies. Research requires painstaking steps in a very long process to move any type of mesothelioma therapy forward as an accepted standard treatment in hospitals and oncology centers. A high level of laboratory research, animal tests and clinical trials on volunteer patients are always a part of the approval process for new treatment procedures and medications.
In this study, the eight mesothelioma patients had received an initial treatment with regular radiation following surgery. For their next phase of treatment, instead of regular radiation, they received proton therapy. The researchers then compared the results.
Although both types of radiation mesothelioma therapy reached the area of the lung targeted for treatment, there was one major difference. The amount of radiation that was unintentionally reaching the heathy unaffected lung, the kidneys, the heart and the spinal cord was “significantly reduced” in proton therapy compared to regular therapy, the authors state. They noted that the proton therapy spared the internal organs most at risk from being damaged by regular radiation therapy.
Mesothelioma Therapy Is Helped by Therapy for Other Cancers
Treatments for cancer used to be very specific for each type of cancer. Progress in cancer research was limited to research into each cancer. This was a disadvantage for developing new types of mesothelioma therapy because although about 3,000 people every year are diagnosed with mesothelioma, the number is relatively small compared to other types of cancer such as lung cancer, breast cancer or colon cancer. Unfortunately, mesothelioma and other types of rarer cancers often did not receive the amount of research funding needed to make significant progress.
However, in recent years, researchers and companies that produce medical equipment and pharmaceuticals for treating cancer realized that all types of cancer have certain core similarities. Researchers began exploring whether treatment modalities for one type of cancer might be effective in treating other types of cancer with the hopes of finding positive results.
That means that mesothelioma therapy can benefit with some additional testing on new types of cancer treatment that have been successful in other cancers. One of these new treatments is proton radiation.
Researchers at the University of Maryland Proton Treatment Center estimate that as many as 30% of patients, who need radiation as part of their course of cancer treatment, could benefit from proton therapy. They report that proton therapy is a highly effective treatment for a wide range of tumors including those found in the brain, base of the skull, head and neck area, eye, esophagus, prostate, liver, breast and spinal cord, gastrointestinal malignancies and the lungs, which includes mesothelioma.
Proton Radiation Advantages for Mesothelioma Therapy
Proton radiation is different from traditional X-ray radiation with significant improvement. In proton therapy, the radiation dose stops at the tumor site. It is very precise. At many treatment centers that offer proton therapy, treatment rooms are equipped with the most advanced form called “pencil beam” proton therapy. This technology makes it possible for the proton beam, with pencil point accuracy, to “paint” the tumor with radiation, layer-by-layer, in three dimensions. This extreme accuracy decreases radiation unnecessarily zapping surrounding healthy tissue, thus reducing side effects and preventing damage to critical organs such as the heart, lungs, brain, spinal cord, liver, intestine, bladder or rectum.
Proton therapy can be performed on an outpatient basis, and is considered a well-tolerated, noninvasive treatment that can reduce side effects commonly associated with radiation. It can be used as part of a mesothelioma treatment plan that includes other treatments such as chemotherapy and surgery.
In many instances patients and/or their insurance may be charged the same cost for proton therapy as they would for conventional radiation treatment. So, it may be worth exploring proton therapy as an option for your mesothelioma therapy treatment plan.