Home

About the Center Services and Programs Proton Therapy Visitor Information Ways to Give
Roberts Proton Therapy Center

Overview
About the Facility
What is Proton Therapy?
How Does Proton Therapy Work?
Targets for Proton Therapy
New Research
The Patient Experience
A Never-Ending Quest for New Knowledge
Future Collaborations
 

History

Architectural Renderings and Technology Images
Construction Photos
Cyclotron Arrives in Philadelphia
Collaborative Research Effort with U.S. Military

What is Proton Therapy?

Listen to James Metz, MD, speak about The Future of Cancer Care

Proton therapy may sound mysterious, but think back to high school science class — protons are positively-charged particles that are part of the nucleus of every atom. When aimed at tumors, however, protons are a particle with impressive power. Proton therapy uses a beam of protons moving at very high speeds — at about 100,000 miles per second, near the speed of light — to pummel and destroy the DNA of cancer cells, killing them and preventing them from multiplying.

Conventional radiation uses X-rays or gamma rays, high-energy electromagnetic waves. As those rays pass into the body, they begin to scatter and lose much of their energy even before reaching the tumor, like a flashlight beam spreading out and becoming dimmer in the distance. After passing through the tumor, they continue through the body — affecting not only the cancer cells, but healthy tissues along their path, frequently resulting in side effects for the patient.

But protons act differently in tissue, in ways that can help doctors treat tumors that are hard to reach or close to vital organs like the heart: They give up their energy completely once they enter the tumor, so radiation dose is limited beyond the tumor, causing less damage to healthy tissues.

"Proton therapy potentially represents the best of both worlds — delivering a high dose of radiation to tumors, while at the same time limiting side effects to patients," explains Stephen Hahn, MD, chairman of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Penn Medicine.

Why Use Protons?

  • Same tumor killing properties as X-rays
  • Decreased dose to normal tissues by 50-70%
  • Decreased side-effects and complications
  • Ability to treat tumors close to critical organs like the spinal cord
  • With X-rays, 20% of cancers come back because treatment dose was too low to be effective
  • Possibility to increase the safe dose delivered to tumors
  • Possibility of increased cure rates
  • The ability to re-treat tumors after recurrences
  • The added ability to treat benign conditions

Applications of Protons to Treat Cancers

Applications of Protons to Treat Benign Conditions

 


appointment icon

Need an appointment? Request one online 24 hours/day, 7 days/week or call 800-789-PENN (7366) to speak to a referral counselor.

   
   

 

About Penn Medicine   Contact Us   Site Map   Privacy Statement   Legal Disclaimer   Terms of Use

Penn Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 800-789-PENN © 2014, The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania space