Proton Therapy for Pancreatic Cancer

Proton Therapy for Pancreatic Cancer

Proton Therapy for Pancreatic Cancer is still evolving and is not the standard of care yet. However, studies have shown proton therapy to be as effective and safe as conventional radiation therapy. 

Malignant tumors can be treated using proton therapy, a type of radiation therapy, without harming nearby cells or organs like your liver or gallbladder. It can be used to treat pancreatic cancer.

The seventh most common cancer-related cause of death worldwide is pancreatic cancer. This sort of cancer can develop before any symptoms show up, which may affect the recommended therapies by a physician or expert.

Although proton therapy is still not generally accessible, it may be capable of treating pancreatic cancer without as many of the negative side effects that come with conventional treatments.

Additionally, it is frequently used by doctors for pancreatic cancer patients that have progressed beyond the point when surgery alone would be ineffective.

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What are the benefits of proton therapy for pancreatic cancer?

The following are the reasons why you should get proton therapy to treat pancreatic cancer.

  • Proton beams with high energy and accurate targeting can provide substantial doses of radiation to kill malignant cells, minimizing the likelihood of recurrence in many cancer patients.
  • Non-invasive proton treatment may lessen negative effects.
  • Patients receiving proton treatment can be more tolerant of chemotherapy.
  • Throughout and after therapy, patients can continue their current standard of living.
  • It can occasionally be used successfully to treat regions that have already received radiation treatment.

Compared to other treatments like conventional radiation therapy or chemotherapy, proton therapy for pancreatic cancer may have the most benefit in that it can help cure larger tumors without killing good cells.

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What are the downsides of proton therapy for pancreatic cancer?

There is still no agreement among scientists as to whether proton therapy is superior to other cancer therapies.

You may suffer fewer adverse effects from proton treatment, but you might still encounter some radiation therapy-related symptoms. [ref]

Such as:

  • Nausea
  • Exhaustion
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhoea

A lack of accessibility is another drawback of proton treatment. Although not all cancer treatment facilities provide this therapy, some hospitals do.

The cost of proton therapy is often higher than that of other cancer radiation therapies. Few insurance companies are likely to fund proton treatment due to the scant evidence supporting its usefulness. [ref]

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At what stage proton therapy for pancreatic cancer is most effective?

For stage 2B to stage 4 pancreatic cancer, doctors typically advise proton treatment when surgery alone cannot completely remove the malignant tissue.

Proton therapy may occasionally be used in conjunction with chemotherapy before, during, or after surgery. [ref]

Proton treatment may be particularly beneficial in the following circumstances.

  • Recurrent pancreatic cancer:

When cancer reappears after receiving early therapies, such as surgery, this occurs. It could go back to the pancreas, which is where it started, or it might go somewhere else in your body.

  • Borderline resectable pancreatic cancer:

Fully resectable tumors may be removed surgically, whereas borderline resectable cancers spread to neighboring tissues, organs, or blood arteries and may not be as readily removed.

  • Metastatic pancreatic cancer:

When the spread of cancer involves the organs

  • Locally advanced pancreatic cancer:

When cancer has spread toward lymph nodes and adjacent areas.

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What does the research say about Proton therapy for pancreatic cancer?

Proton therapy may be used to treat pancreatic cancer tumors that surgeons are unable to remove. This is according to an evaluation of 2020 research.

When combined with systemic therapies like chemotherapy, proton therapy has the potential to be an effective localized treatment for malignant cells. [ref]

According to research, proton treatment may increase pancreatic cancer patient survival rate. However, doctors are unlikely to suggest it as a stand-alone therapy.

A better level of therapeutic effectiveness can be achieved when chemotherapy and radiotherapy/proton therapy are used together. [ref]

In a 2019 research, 56% of cancer patients who got proton therapy lived for more than three years, compared to 58% of those who received conventional radiation therapy.

This implies that the effectiveness of the two radiation therapy is comparable. Additionally, this specific study included other cancer kinds in addition to pancreatic cancer. [ref]

Even though the results of proton therapy used for pancreatic cancer are controversial, it still holds promising efficacy. [ref]

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How does proton therapy for pancreatic cancer work?

Proton therapy, often known as proton beam radiotherapy, is a form of high-dose radiation therapy. Advanced pancreatic cancer and other malignancies, such as breast, lung, and prostate cancers, may be treated using this more recent technique of cancer treatment.

Proton treatment employs radiation created from protons—subatomic particles that carry positive electrical charges—instead of the large doses of radiation used in conventional radiation therapy, which uses X-rays or photons. This strategy is also more concentrated on the chosen treatment region.

Proton treatment kills malignant tumors by deleting their DNA, just as other forms of radiation therapy. Following radiation therapy, cancer cells then gradually disappear over the course of a few days or weeks.

Similar to radiation therapy, physicians could advise proton therapy to:

  • Reduce the rate of pancreatic cancer cell proliferation
  • Completely eliminate tumors, cure, or prevent cancer recurrence

Proton therapy is frequently used by medical experts with other cancer treatments including chemotherapy or surgery.

A whole proton treatment session normally lasts 30 minutes. You will recline on a table throughout your treatment as a machine directs proton beams to various parts of your body.

Depending on how many malignant cells are present in the tissues or organs next to your pancreas, you could require many therapy sessions.

Depending on the specifics of your pancreatic cancer treatment plan, a doctor can advise you to follow proton therapy with chemotherapy drugs.

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To Summarize,

Between 2011 and 2017, the 5-year relative survival rate for pancreatic cancer was 11% overall, although new therapies, such as proton therapy, are continually being developed to assist patients to have a better prognosis. [ref]

If proton therapy is not currently accessible to you but you are still interested in this approach for pancreatic cancer, speak with a doctor about participating in clinical trials. You may be able to get proton treatment for little to no cost thanks to this.

What do you think?

Written by Dr. Ahmed

I am Dr. Ahmed (MBBS; FCPS Medicine), an Internist and a practicing physician. I am in the medical field for over fifteen years working in one of the busiest hospitals and writing medical posts for over 5 years.

I love my family, my profession, my blog, nature, hiking, and simple life. Read more about me, my family, and my qualifications

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