Huge Inroads for Children's Cancer Care

Aug 31, 2015

In case you haven’t noticed, some really big equipment has been moving into the Children’s Hospital Liberty Campus and its impact for cancer patients could be huge.

The New Children's/UC Health Proton Therapy Center, scheduled to open in the winter of 2016-2017, has giant equipment that can zero in on a 3D image of a tumor and "spray paint" the cancerous cells with radiation without damaging surrounding cells.

See a demonstration here.

According to Medical Director Dr. John Breneman, a UC Health Radiation Oncologist, this is especially important for kids with cancer. He says, "Growing tissues are really susceptible to the damaging effects of radiation so we think at least 3/4 of the children we are treating now with conventional radiation, will instead be better treated with proton therapy and have a lot less side effects into adulthood."

Some women being treated for breast cancer may also benefit from proton therapy because it might spare them from heart damage later in life. Other adult candidates would be patients where traditional radiation might damage brain, heart and lung tissue.

Here's how proton therapy works:

  • A particle accelerator (the cyclotron) spins the protons (once separated from electrons) through a magnetic field at two-thirds the speed of light
  • These charged particles are sent out through a beam line to treat the patient.
  • They are surrounded by magnets to stay in the middle of the beam line.
  • Another machine has already created a 3D image of the tumor and the protons "spray paint" the cancerous cells layer by layer to get rid of them, without damaging surrounding cells.

What Makes The New Children's UC Proton Therapy Center Stand Out

There are fourteen such centers around the country, and twelve under construction. Abram Gordon, the executive director of the Children's/UC Health Proton Therapy Center, says only two others have the latest and most technologically advanced machines and there is a research component. Scientists will study how protons kill cancer cells, what the dose should be and how the treatment can be improved.

In 2018 a national conference will bring 1,000 oncologists, involved in proton therapy, to the Cincinnati Convention Center and to the hospital for their annual meeting.