Advanced OncoTherapy: Growing evidence for proton therapy for gastrointestinal cancer

Following the promising results from a number of clinical trials, clinicians believe this is an interesting time in the development of proton therapy treatments to treat gastrointestinal cancers. Dr Jim Metz, Professor of Radiation Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania, comments "We're really pushing the envelope in terms of treating gastrointestinal cancers."

Gastrointestinal cancers include cancers of the oesophagus, pancreas, stomach, small intestine, large intestine (colon) and rectum.While these organs of the digestive system are very diverse, they are united in the similarity of treatment - almost all require concurrent chemotherapy. This presents a challenge for both patients and clinicians as concomitant radiation with x-rays often intensifies treatment side effects (from chemotherapy) and also compromises normal tissue adjacent to the tumour site.

Clinical trials with proton therapy, where normal tissue exposure to radiation is kept to a minimum, have shown very hopeful results in GI cancers. While it is too early to claim that cure rates are increased, patients are better able to tolerate their treatments.

In addition, clinicians have improved their knowledge in delivering radiation with protons and combining it with chemotherapy. This expanded experience enables clinicians to further advance treatment regimes by studying proton therapy in combination with novel chemotherapy and new biological agents. The end goal is to improve cure rates, reduce patient toxicity, reduce treatment times and improve overall patient quality of life.


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