Proton Therapy to Provide New Weapon Against Tumors in Fragile Areas of Head and Spine

A new tool to treat cancer – including cancer of the brain and spine – is on the horizon in Greater Cincinnati. Work has begun on a $120 million Cincinnati Children’s/University of Cincinnati Medical Center Proton Therapy Center, which is scheduled to open in 2016.  Proton therapy is a form of radiotherapy delivered by a massive, 700-ton system. The center, which will treat children and adults, will be located at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center’s Liberty campus.

The Proton Therapy Center will provide one of the most technologically advanced weapons against cancer in existence, says Radiation Oncologist John Breneman, MD, a UC Health radiation oncologist and associate medical director of the UC Neuroscience Institute’s Brain Tumor Center.

Proton therapy will join other forms of radiotherapy already being effectively used by the UC Brain Tumor Center team. Patients currently undergo radiosurgery and radiotherapy at Precision Radiotherapy Center, which uses Novalis® and TrueBeam™ technology. Novalis® and TrueBeam™ deliver precisely targeted, shaped beams of radiation to a tumor and are highly effective against the majority of brain tumors.

During proton therapy, protons produced by a cyclotron are also delivered to a precisely targeted area, but with an important difference. “The advantage of proton therapy,” Dr. Breneman says, “is its ability to deliver that same shaped beam of radiation to a precisely defined depth. The protons’ energy, rather than continuing through a tumor and causing damage to healthy cells that lie beyond the tumor, is deposited within a limited distance. This makes proton therapy the optimal choice for tumors that are oddly shaped or that are located in fragile areas in the head and spine, such as the brainstem, the spinal cord, the eyes, or the ears.”

At present, the closest proton therapy sites to Greater Cincinnati are in Cleveland, Chicago and Knoxville, Tennessee.  Cincinnati’s system is manufactured by Varian Medical Systems.

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