What is Proton Therapy?
Pencil Beam Scanning Proton Therapy (PBS) / Intensity-Modulated Proton Therapy (IMPT)
While many proton centers offer treatment with an older form of proton therapy called double scattered protons, the most recent refinement to this therapy is called pencil beam scanning (PBS), allowing the delivery of intensity-modulated proton therapy (IMPT). PBS is designed to treat a single layer of a tumor at a time, in effect painting the tumor with radiation spot-by-spot, and slice by slice. Many centers that offer PBS still use the older form of proton technology to treat patients. At Medstar Georgetown, all patients are treated with HYPERSCAN™, an advanced form of PBS.
HYPERSCAN Proton Therapy Technology for Cancer Treatment
The MEVION S250i™ with HYPERSCAN proton therapy system is the most advanced proton cancer treatment technology currently available. MedStar Georgetown is the first proton therapy center to access this level of advanced cancer treatment technology. With focused targeting of PBS, proton therapy with HYPERSCAN is the most precise PBS system available. The HYPERSCAN system is the fastest form of PBS, reducing the duration of each treatment session and improving both clinical accuracy and patient comfort.
How HYPERSCAN Technology Works
The HYPERSCAN system uses a pencil beam proton scanner, which deposits protons in the tumor spot-by-spot, layer-by-layer. The planning system creates a 3-dimensional representation of the tumor and relays the information to the device. Then, the HYPERSCAN machine precisely targets the exact location of the tumor, delivering radiation one layer at a time. The accuracy of this state-of-the-art proton treatment system allows patients to be treated for cancer with less radiation exposure to normal tissues than other systems.
Image-Guided and Adaptive Proton Therapy
MedStar Georgetown is also able to deploy therapy with the most advanced system available for the foreseeable future; we will enable the best positioning for patients to receive their treatments. We offer image-guided proton therapy (IGPT), using high-resolution imaging systems to accurately position a patient for radiation delivery.
Unlike other proton units, we offer adaptive proton therapy, with a diagnostic-quality CT scanner in the treatment room that can be used to modify treatment in response to changes in the patient’s anatomy, such as when the tumor shrinks during the treatment course.
Proton therapy with HYPERSCAN is a highly advanced form of radiation therapy (radiotherapy) that has the power to shrink and eliminate cancer by precisely focusing protons onto the target tumor. The state-of-the-art therapy, which is available at the MedStar Georgetown University Hospital Proton Therapy Center, improves the outcomes of patients undergoing radiation therapy. Proton therapy involves significantly less radiation exposure to normal tissues and can result in fewer side effects compared to traditional radiation therapy.
Proton therapy takes advantage of the physical properties of the proton particles, which can be controlled better than conventional radiation. This makes this therapy more accurate and precise, destroying tumors without causing damage to the surrounding healthy cells. Proton therapy can avoid the need for certain surgeries and provides patients with an alternative treatment option for cancers of all types as well as recurrent cancers.
Why is proton therapy used?
Proton radiation therapy can be used to treat a wide range of cancers and can treat tumors anywhere in the body. The cancer care team at MedStar Georgetown is continuously working to expand the list of conditions that can be treated using proton therapy.
Below are some of the most common conditions treated with this therapy:
- Brain tumors
- Breast cancer
- Gastrointestinal cancers
- Gynecologic cancers
- Head and neck tumors
- Lung/chest cancers
- Pediatric tumors
- Prostate cancer
- Recurrent tumors
- Sarcoma/soft tissue
- Spinal cord tumors
For a complete list of conditions treated using proton therapy, visit our Proton Therapy Conditions page.
How does proton therapy work?
Proton therapy is similar to other forms of radiation in application, targeting cancerous cells without the need for surgical incisions. Traditional radiation therapy uses a special kind of high-energy beam, which is aimed at the cancer to damage the cells and stop them from multiplying. However, this high-energy beam impacts not only tumor cells, but it also damages other healthy cells that are in its path. On the other hand, proton therapy is better able to precisely target the exact location of the tumor, leaving surrounding healthy cells unharmed. In the long run, this can reduce the chances of developing secondary cancers due to radiation.
For more information, please contact Cheryl Savage, Administrator, Department of Radiation Medicine