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Proton therapy lowers risk of side effects in cancer

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New York: Proton therapy leads to significantly lower risk of side effects for cancer patients when compared with traditional radiation, researchers have found.

For the findings, published in the journal JAMA Oncology, researchers from University of Pennsylvania analysed if the cancer patients going through radiation therapy alongside chemotherapy faced severe side effects in a span of 90 days.

They found proton therapy reduces the relative risk of these side effects by two-thirds.

“This is exciting because it shows that proton therapy offers a way for us to reduce the serious side effects of chemo-radiation and improve patient health and wellbeing without sacrificing the effectiveness of the therapy,” said the study’s lead author Brian Baumann from the University of Pennsylvania in the US.

Proton therapy has a few key differences from traditional photon radiation.

Photon radiation typically uses multiple x-ray beams to deliver radiation to the tumour target but unavoidably deposits radiation in the normal tissues beyond the target, potentially damaging those tissues as the beam exits the body.

For this study, researchers evaluated side effects including pain or difficulty swallowing, difficulty breathing, nausea, or diarrhea, among others.

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Researchers focused on grade-three effects or higher, defined as side effects severe enough for patients to be hospitalised.

They evaluated data on 1,483 cancer patients receiving radiation and chemotherapy at the same time.

Of these, 391 patients received proton therapy, while 1,092 underwent photon treatment.

All patients had non-metastatic cancer and were undergoing treatment intended to be curative.

Patients with brain cancer, head and neck cancer, lung cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, and gynecologic cancer treated with concurrent chemo-radiation were included.

The primary outcome was whether or not patients experienced adverse side effects that were grade-three or higher within 90 days of treatment.

In the proton group, only 11.5 per cent of patients (45) did, compared to 27.6 per cent of patients (301) in the photon group.

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