"Protontherapy is the most precise external radiation therapy that protects healthy tissue as much as possible because it does not expose them unnecessarily to radiation".
DR. FELIPE CALVO CODIRECTOR. RADIOTHERAPEUTIC ONCOLOGY DEPARTMENT
Proton therapy, or proton radiotherapy, is a very precise treatment that minimizes the damage to healthy surrounding organs and structures. In the treatment of numerous tumors it will displace the classic radiotherapy with photons, because of its lower toxicity and its high precision.
The Proton Therapy Unit of the Clínica Universidad de Navarra in its Madrid headquarters is the most advanced in Europe and the first in a Cancer Center, with all its assistance, academic and research support.
Proton therapy has a more effective distribution of energy than photons, making it possible to direct higher doses to the area of the tumor without increasing the doses in other areas, minimizing the damage that radiotherapy can produce in healthy or very sensitive tissues, or in growing tissues, as in the case of children.
More than 140,000 patients have already been treated with this therapy worldwide. It provides very promising results with minimal side effects in pediatric tumors, ocular melanoma, in tumors of the base of the skull, brain, head and neck, lymphomas and spinal and peritoneal sarcomas.
Moreover, research is being carried out to extend its indications to other types of tumors such as breast, lung, liver, prostate and gynecological.
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What types of cancer is proton therapy for?
It is considered the treatment of choice for children suffering from cancer, since proton therapy, unlike conventional radiotherapy, respects healthy tissues (which are still forming) and minimizes sequelae, which is fundamental for the future development of the child.
Furthermore, for the elderly who generally present other pathologies (diabetes, cholesterol, hypertension, kidney problems...) it also represents a great advance since the use of protons does not add another additional lesion to the tissues that are already chronically damaged.
Recommended indications for proton therapy:
- Brain and eye tumors, base of the skull.
- Head and neck tumors.
- Spinal and peritoneal sarcomas.
- Pediatric tumors (cerebral and spinal cord).
Indications for proton therapy in research:
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PROTON THERAPY CENTER IN SPAIN
The most advanced Proton Therapy Unit in Europe
The Clínica Universidad de Navarra allies with Hitachi to offer for the first time in Europe the same technology already present in 27 leading international cancer treatment centers.
How does proton therapy work?
How proton therapy is performed
Proton therapy uses protons extracted from hydrogen molecules that are injected into a linear accelerator that ejects them at low speed.
In the particle accelerator, either a cyclotron or a synchrotron, four magnets move the protons in a circle and an electric field gradually increases their speed. When they have reached a sufficient speed they are deflected for use.
Before starting the treatment, a cone beam CT scan is performed to visualize the patient's internal anatomy in order to precisely locate the tumor.
Once the proper angle for treatment has been chosen and the patient is positioned at the exact angle for optimal treatment delivery, the proton beam deposits almost all of the energy into the tumor. It produces very little damage to healthy tissues upstream of the tumor and no damage to downstream tissues.
Proton therapy sessions have an estimated duration of about 35 minutes depending on their complexity and support requirements (anesthesia), most of which is spent on placement, positioning and verification by image guidance (CT incorporated in the gantry). The irradiation time is, in most cases, less than one minute.
The number of sessions will depend on each case and on the characteristics of the tumor, such as location, type or size. The average is between 20 and 30 sessions.
This whole process makes proton therapy the best alternative for tumors that are difficult to access or that are surrounded by healthy vital structures and organs that must be preserved.
Advantages of proton therapy
Proton therapy offers several advantages over conventional radiation therapy, such as intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) or external beam radiation therapy (EBRT). Some of the advantages of proton therapy include:
Precision: protons have unique physical properties that allow them to deposit most of their energy in a specific area called the Bragg peak. This means that proton therapy can more precisely target tumors, which reduces the risk of damaging surrounding healthy tissues and organs.
Fewer side effects: Because of the greater precision in radiation delivery, proton therapy generally causes fewer side effects than conventional radiation therapy. Patients may experience less skin irritation, fatigue and other symptoms associated with radiation.
Reduced risk of radiation to healthy tissues and organs: Proton therapy allows for a more focused radiation dose distribution, which reduces the amount of radiation received by healthy tissues and organs near the tumor. This may decrease the risk of developing long-term complications and radiation-related side effects.
More effective treatment for certain types of cancer: Proton therapy may be especially beneficial in treating certain types of cancer, such as brain tumors, pediatric tumors, skull base tumors, head and neck tumors, and prostate tumors, among others. These tumors can be difficult to treat with conventional radiation therapy because of their location near critical organs and tissues.
Shorter treatment: Proton therapy often requires fewer treatment sessions compared to conventional radiation therapy. This can translate into less disruption to the patient's daily life and faster recovery.
Potential to treat radiation-resistant tumors: Some tumors may be resistant to conventional radiation therapy, but may respond better to proton therapy due to the ability of protons to deliver higher doses of radiation to the tumor.
Lower risk of secondary cancer induction: Proton therapy may decrease the risk of developing a second radiation-induced cancer compared to conventional radiation therapy, especially in pediatric patients and those requiring treatment to sensitive areas of the body.
Despite these advantages, proton therapy is not suitable for all patients and is not available at all treatment centers. It is critical that patients consult their physician to determine if proton therapy is an appropriate treatment option for their specific situation.
Efectos secundarios de la protonterapia
Proton therapy minimizes the toxicity suffered by patients and is one of its best-established advantages.
Although no cancer treatment is harmless to the patient, proton therapy has fewer side effects because it causes less toxicity in the irradiated area, which is one of the best established advantages over other types of external radiation therapy.
The side effects associated with proton therapy are multifactorial and depend on the interaction between the irradiation itself on the tissues and the general condition of the patient and the tissues exposed to radiation.
- Fatigue: Fatigue is a common side effect of proton therapy and can last for several weeks after completing treatment. It is important that patients get sufficient rest and follow their physician's recommendations to manage fatigue.
- Skin irritation: Some patients may experience redness, dryness, itching or flaking of the skin in the treatment area. These symptoms are usually temporary and resolve after completing therapy.
- Loss of appetite: Proton therapy may cause loss of appetite in some patients. It is important that patients try to maintain a balanced diet and consume sufficient calories and nutrients to support recovery.
- Nausea and vomiting: These side effects may be more common in patients receiving treatment to areas near the stomach or brain. Doctors may prescribe medications to control nausea and vomiting if they become problematic.
- Hair loss: Hair loss may occur when proton therapy is applied to the cranial area.
The toxicity to be expected from each radiotherapy treatment is individualized and very predictable. Each patient is informed in advance and in detail before requesting informed consent.
Proton therapy Center in Madrid
The Proton Therapy Unit
of the Clínica Universidad de Navarra
The Proton Therapy Unit of the Clínica Universidad de Navarra in Madrid is the most advanced in Europe and the first in a Cancer Center, with all its assistance, academic and research support.
The Clinic's Proton Therapy Unit incorporates a Hitachi synchrotron, this technology is present in 32 clinical and academic centers, among which are international references in cancer treatment, such as the Mayo Clinic, MD Anderson, John's Hopkins, St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital or Hokkaido University Hospital.
More information about the Proton Therapy Unit
Why at the Clinica?
- Expert professionals of international reference.
- Greater accessibility for national and international patients.
- Integrated within the Cancer Center Universidad de Navarra with the most advanced diagnostic technology, services and the latest advances in cancer treatment.