Newer treatment may be easier on children with brain tumors

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February 2, 2016

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School have found that proton radiotherapy reduces negative side-effects typically caused by photon therapy when treating medulloblastoma, a common type of brain cancer in children. This is largely due to the fact that proton therapy delivers radiation to only the brain tumor, whereas photon therapy also delivers radiation to healthy tissue around the tumor.

In a study of 59 children with medulloblastoma (a tumor found at the base of the brain) who received proton therapy, the rate of significant hearing loss for patients lowered to 12 percent three years after their treatment, from 25 percent for patients treated with photon radiotherapy. Proton therapy also reduced the patients’ loss of cognitive ability (thinking) and secondary effects on the heart, lung, digestive tract and seizures. 

While it is still not widely available in the US, “Proton therapy maintains excellent cure rates in pediatric medulloblastoma while reducing long-term side effects,” said lead author Torunn Yock. “…While we are currently investigating quality of life differences between proton and photon treatment, I truly believe that -- particularly for the youngest children -- the ability to offer them proton therapy can make a big difference in their lives.” 

For more information on the study, click here