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Proton Therapy for Pediatric Cancer

Proton therapy holds unique promise for children with cancer. Unlike traditional radiation, proton therapy precisely targets the cancer while avoiding healthy tissue and organs nearby. This means fewer harmful side effects. 

University Hospitals is home to Ohio’s first Proton Therapy Center. Our center is the only proton center in the world that is located on the same campus as a full-service, nationally ranked children’s hospital. By combining this advanced technology with our experienced team of pediatric specialists, we’re able to provide world-class cancer treatment for children and young adults. Proton therapy is available at our main campus in University Circle.

Game-Changing Technology Delivers Better Long-term Outcomes

Cancer in children is typically treated with radiation, chemotherapy, surgery or a combination of the three. Though traditional radiation can effectively defeat childhood cancers, it can also cause developmental delays and other problems. Because children’s bodies are still growing and developing, these risks are heightened.

Proton therapy can be more precisely controlled, so physicians are able to target cancer cells while avoiding surrounding healthy tissue. This medical advancement is especially promising for children whose growing bodies need protection. By limiting exposure, proton therapy may decrease risk for radiation-induced secondary cancers, learning disabilities and growth abnormalities.

Our proton therapy center helps deliver positive short-term outcomes and better long-term results. This helps childhood cancer survivors lead healthy and full lives.

Cancers We Target with Proton Therapy

Proton therapy works best for solid tumors that have defined edges that have not spread. This technique is beneficial for children with tumors in critical areas like the brain, head, neck, lungs and spine.

Some of the childhood cancers we treat with proton therapy include:

  • Brain Tumors
  • Craniopharyngioma: Benign brain tumors found near the pituitary gland at the base of the brain. The pituitary gland regulates the body’s hormones.
  • Ependymoma: A disease in which cancer cells form in the tissues of the brain and spinal cord.
  • Ewing’s Sarcoma: A type of tumor that forms in bone or soft tissue.
  • Glioma (astrocytoma, glioblastoma, hypothalamic glioma, optic nerve gliomas): These are types of fast-growing tumors that occur in the glial cells of the brain and spinal cord. These cells help keep the nerves in the brain healthy.
  • Meningioma: A tumor that forms in the meningeal cells of the brain. These cells make up the thin layer of tissue that covers the brain and spinal cord.
  • Neuroblastoma: A tumor that forms in the immature nerve tissue in the adrenal gland, neck, chest or spinal cord.
  • Retinoblastoma: A disease in which cancer cells form I the tissues of the retina.
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma: A type of tumor that forms in the soft tissue (such as muscle), connective tissue (such as tendon or cartilage) or bone (osteosarcoma).
  • Teratoma: A rare, usually non-cancerous testicular tumor most commonly found in children under the age of three.

A Better Experience for Cancer Patients and Families

Navigating a cancer diagnosis can be extremely difficult for families. Our extensive team of experts is here to guide you through the entire process, from diagnosis to treatment to recovery and beyond. If proton therapy is recommended, our pediatric oncologists will develop an individualized treatment plan. This may or may be combined with other treatments. We will also make sure patients and families understand every step of treatment decisions.

The treatment process for receiving proton therapy is very similar to receiving X-ray treatments. The actual proton beam time is about one to two minutes, but each treatment session may last up to an hour due to the time spent positioning the patient. Because it can be difficult for children to be very still, some sedation may be required. We have a specialized pediatric sedation team at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital who make the experience more pleasant. Their expertise helps patients avoid going under anesthesia every time.

Proton therapy sessions occur over a period of up to eight weeks. Because treatments are noninvasive and do not cause pain, patients are able to continue with their daily activities throughout treatment.

Learn More About Our Proton Therapy Expertise

For more information about our expertise in proton therapy treatment for young patients, contact one of our team members or call 855-401-1104.