News | April 02, 2014

Pencil Beam Scanning Increases Precision of Proton Therapy

Pencil beam scanning expands types of tumors treated at Procure Proton Therapy Center

April 2, 2014 — Proton beam therapy, already the most advanced and precise form of radiation therapy for the eradication of cancers, has taken a major technological leap forward with the introduction of pencil beam scanning at the ProCure Proton Therapy Center in Somerset, N.J., the only proton facility in the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut tri-state region. Doctors can now use an ultra narrow proton beam to deposit dose even more precisely within a cancer, thereby minimizing the dose to surrounding normal tissues to reduce the risk of side effects.

Unlike conventional radiation treatments in which the beam penetrates all the way through the target tumor into the normal tissues behind the cancer, proton beams deliver their dose to the tumor without any dose reaching the deeper tissues. Pencil beam scanning couples this unique property of the proton beam with an electronically guided scanning system that delicately and precisely moves a beam of pencil point sharpness back and forth across each layer of the tumor’s thickness to paint the tumor with radiation in three dimensions while eliminating dose to the normal tissues on the other side of the cancer. This ultra precision makes pencil beam scanning an ideal treatment for irregularly shaped tumors that are located next to critical tissues and organs, such as tumors of the prostate, brain or eye.

Proton therapy is clinically proven to be beneficial in treating a broad range of tumor types including prostate, head and neck, brain, central nervous system, lung, sarcomas, gastrointestinal and many pediatric cancers. Because of its unique precision compared to standard radiation treatment, proton therapy minimizes the risk of radiation exposure to surrounding healthy tissue. The addition of pencil beam scanning enables physicians to configure the proton beam’s range and dosage to an even more precise three-dimensional target area, further limiting side-effects patients may experience.

“Pencil beam scanning is one of the most highly developed tools available to radiation oncologists today, and we are very pleased to offer our patients this new dimension of precision and flexibility in planning radiation treatments,” said Oren Cahlon, medical director of the ProCure Proton Therapy Center and a partner of Princeton Radiation Oncology. “With the increased accuracy of pencil beam scanning, we can now use proton therapy to treat some of the most challenging tumors, helping to ensure that more patients will have access to a precise radiation treatment with reduced risk of side-effects.”

Michael Cutilo, two-time cancer survivor and one of the first prostate cancer patients to be treated with pencil beam scanning for a recurrence after undergoing a prostatecomy, states, “Anytime you can treat someone with cancer through a minimally invasive technology such as proton therapy, it’s a step in the right direction. I’ve received proton therapy for the last month — my treatment duration has been short, and I’m feeling little to no side-effects.”

While traditional proton therapy achieves treatment precision through the use of custom-made compensators and apertures designed to shape and limit penetration of the beam, these devices must be designed for each patient and changed throughout the course of therapy as tumors change shape or position. Doing away with these components through the use of pencil beam scanning technology will reduce the time it takes to deliver proton therapy to patients.

“Embracing advanced technology at our center is an important element as we look for ways to provide patients with the most effective and efficient treatments,” said Cahlon. “It is our mission at ProCure to improve the lives of patients with cancer by expanding access to proton therapy to optimize both the chance of cure and the quality of life for our patients.”

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