Two studies highlight proton therapy for pediatric brain cancer

From improving outcomes in children with brain cancer to lowering the risk of damage to the brainstem in children with central nervous system tumors, a pair of new studies add to the growing body of research showing the potential benefits of proton therapy.

A clinic worker stands at the gantry of the Roberts Proton Therapy center machine.

The first study, published in Pediatric Blood and Cancer, found that very young children who received proton therapy for medulloblastoma had higher rates of overall survival and recurrence-free survival compared to patients who received intense chemotherapy without radiotherapy. The second study, published in Acta Oncologica, showed children with central nervous system tumors who received proton therapy with a newer technique called pencil beam scanning experienced a significantly lower rate of brainstem damage than patients treated with older proton techniques. Both studies were led by Christine Hill-Kayser, an associate professor of radiation oncology at the Perelman School of Medicine, a member of Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center, and a pediatric oncologist in the Cancer Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).

Researchers evaluated 14 young children who received proton therapy following surgery and chemotherapy. They found the five-year rate of overall survival was 84 percent, while the rate of recurrence-free survival was 70 percent. Historical data shows both rates are usually only between 30 and 60 percent in very young patients who do not receive radiotherapy.

“Our study, while small, shows promising outcomes when we use proton therapy to target just the area of surgery in these cases as opposed to radiating the whole brain and spinal areas,” says the study’s lead author, Amardeep Grewal, chief resident in radiation oncology at Penn.

Read more at Penn Medicine News.