Research Outline

Proton Therapy for Cancer Treatment


To understand the perceptions of healthcare professionals such as oncologists and pulmonologists regarding proton therapy as a cancer treatment.

Early Findings

Safer than traditional radiation

  • According to the National Cancer Institute, "some experts believe that proton therapy is safer than traditional radiation, but there is limited research comparing the two treatments."
  • A certain study shows that "patients treated with proton therapy were much less likely to experience severe side effects than patients treated with traditional radiation therapy, however, there was no difference in how long the patients lived."
  • Brian Baumann, M.D., of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of Pennsylvania, the study's lead investigator, said that "these results support the whole rationale for proton therapy."
  • The study conducted by Dr. Baumann and his team also shows that "those who received proton therapy experienced far fewer serious side effects than those who received traditional radiation. Within 90 days of starting treatment, 45 patients (12%) in the proton therapy group and 301 patients (28%) in the traditional radiation group experienced a severe side effect—that is, an effect severe enough to warrant hospitalization."

Need to justify the expenses of proton therapy

  • According to Henry Park, M.D., and James Yu, M.D., of Yale School of Medicine, "the evidence needed to truly justify the expenses of proton therapy … will need to come from phase 3 randomized clinical trials."

People's ability to perform tasks is not affected

  • The study also reveals that people's ability to do routine tasks such as household chores is not affected by proton therapy, unlike that in traditional radiation. This is revealed through performance status cores that were done over the course of treatment, "performance status scores were half as likely to decline for patients treated with proton therapy as for those who received traditional radiation. "

Works as well as traditional radiation therapy

  • It appears that proton therapy works "as well as traditional radiation therapy to treat cancer and preserve life." This is because "after 3 years, 46% of patients in the proton therapy group and 49% of those in the traditional radiation therapy group were cancer-free and 56% of people who received proton therapy and 58% of those who received traditional radiation were still alive after 3 years."