A new study has revealed that proton beam therapy has fewer severe side effects in child cancer patients than conventional radiotherapy, reports The Guardian.
Researchers said common “toxic” effects of photon-based radiotherapy on the heart, lungs and stomach were not seen in those who received proton treatment.
The study, which was published in the Lancet Oncology, revealed two types of treatment had the same survival rates for young people with the rare brain tumour medulloblastoma.
The alternative treatment was brought to the attention of the public after Brett and Naghmeh King took their son Ashya out of a British hospital and travelled to the Czech Republic for proton therapy, which was not offered to them on the NHS initially.
The study, which was led by Massachusetts General Hospital, said:
“Our findings suggest that proton radiotherapy seems to result in an acceptable degree of toxicity and had similar survival outcomes to those achieved with photon-based radiotherapy.
“Although there remain some effects of treatment on hearing, endocrine and neurocognitive outcomes – particularly in younger patients – other late effects common in photon-treated patients, such as cardiac, pulmonary and gastrointestinal toxic effects, were absent.
“Proton radiotherapy resulted in acceptable toxicity and had similar survival outcomes to those noted with conventional radiotherapy, suggesting that the use of the treatment may be an alternative to photon-based treatments.”
According to The Guardian, the study analysed 59 patients between the ages of three and 21 from 2003 and 2009. Of those analysed, 55 had the tumour partially or completely removed through surgery, while all 59 patients received chemotherapy as well as proton beam therapy. Three years after treatment, 83 percent survived without the cancer aggravating, falling to 80 percent after five years.
Talking about side effects, about one in seven had serious hearing loss after five years and more than half had problems with the neurendocrine system which regulates hormones.
What is proton therapy?
Proton therapy is a highly targeted treatment often used on difficult-to-reach cancers and has a lower risk of damaging other body tissue. In other words, it is a treatment that does not pose serious side effects like other ones.
Controversy and international search were the outcome of the Kings’ decision to take Ashya, who was then aged five, from Southampton General hospital without the consent of doctors in August 2014.
They were however, apprehended a couple of days later in Spain, where they were forced to spend the nights in custody away from their son before being released. Ashya is expected to make a full recovery and return to school full-time earlier in January. Although proton therapy was not offered to the boy on the NHS, the health service later agreed to fund his treatment.
Researchers say treatment that was used on Ashya King, does not produce common ‘toxic’ effects of conventional radiotherapy, which is seen as an encouraging piece of news for a lot of people.
The Guardian however, reports that several new proton beam therapy centres will be opened in the United Kingdom this year.