Martha Ramos’ Story

Proton Therapy Treats Recurrent Brain Tumor

Proton therapy helped save Martha Ramos’ life. After receiving treatment for a recurrent brain tumor at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, the 54-year-old mother of two is back to enjoying a happy and active life in Germantown, Maryland.

Her success is due in part to a cutting-edge treatment called proton therapy—so cutting-edge, in fact, that Martha was the very first patient to receive proton therapy when the MedStar Georgetown University Hospital Proton Therapy Center opened its doors in March 2018.

MedStar Georgetown is the first and only hospital in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area to offer proton therapy and the first in the world to offer proton therapy with HYPERSCAN™ technology. HYPERSCAN produces beams that are sharper than other proton systems and treats patients faster.

“I was a little bit nervous to be the first patient at MedStar Georgetown to get proton therapy,” Martha says, “but I trust my medical team wholeheartedly. After the first treatment, I knew what to expect and was very happy.”

Martha was first diagnosed with a brain tumor called oligodendroglioma in 2006. She had surgery to remove the tumor, but in the fall of 2017, routine follow-up imaging revealed that her tumor had returned.

In January 2018, MedStar Georgetown Neurosurgeon Vikram Nayar, MD, removed the second tumor, about the size of a golf ball, in a very complex operation. However, there were some cells deep within Martha’s brain that couldn’t be completely removed with surgery.

“There was a little bit of tumor that was left after her surgery,” explains Martha’s Neuro-Oncologist, Deepa Subramaniam, MD, director of the Brain Tumor Center at MedStar Georgetown. “She needed radiation after the surgery to get rid of what was left.”

For Martha, nothing mattered more than pursuing treatment that would allow her to have more time to be a mother to her children. “I want to be very healthy so I can be there for them and help them in life,” she says.

Ensuring that the remaining cells were removed with as few side effects as possible was important to both Martha and her care team.

“Martha has a long life expectancy, so we wanted to eradicate the remaining cells from this second tumor while still preserving her excellent quality of life,” says Brian Collins, MD, Martha’s radiation oncologist and director of the MedStar Georgetown Proton Therapy Center. “We chose proton therapy because we could irradiate a significantly smaller area of the brain than we could have with conventional radiation.”

Dr. Collins explains that, with conventional radiation, the photons or X-rays travel through the entire brain without stopping. With proton therapy, the radiation is unleashed just inside the target, then stops. That means there is no exit dose to harm healthy brain tissue.

“For Ms. Ramos, proton therapy was advantageous because we could deliver radiation just to the tumor without affecting other areas,” says Dr. Collins. “This results in fewer side effects like dementia or memory loss.”

The treatment achieved great results. “I feel that I responded very well to the proton therapy treatment,” says Martha. “My recovery from the proton therapy was surprisingly fast.”

“I’m very excited for Ms. Ramos,” says Dr. Collins. “After a short time, she’s back to living her normal life and we expect her to make a full recovery. Proton therapy was an excellent option, and it was a pleasure helping her get through this.”

“I am very, very grateful that my medical team at MedStar Georgetown told me about proton therapy,” says Martha. “I now look forward to a long and happy life.”