National Association for Proton Therapy Spotlights Pediatrics

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Advanced radiation therapy is especially beneficial in treating brain and other tumors in children.

"We’re proud of the work that’s been accomplished so far in the pediatrics area.”

The National Association for Proton Therapy (NAPT) is sharpening its focus on children's health through information resources devoted to proton therapy in pediatrics. The association's website (http://www.proton-therapy.org) has added a new section called "Protons for Kids" with content and case examples about the use of proton beam therapy to treat cancer in children.

"One of the most important advantages of proton therapy is its capability to kill tumor cells while sparing healthy tissue nearby such as in the brain or other organs," said Leonard Arzt, executive director of NAPT. "That advantage is especially critical for kids fighting cancer because protons are known to reduce the risk of radiation impacts including secondary cancers and bone growth deformity. We’re proud of the work that’s been accomplished so far in the pediatrics area.”

The risk of radiation side effects increases over the lifetime of the patient, heightening the danger for children who receive a cancer diagnosis and undergo radiation treatment at a tender age.

"The thing that saves a child with cancer is also the thing that can make them very sick later on and that is radiation," said Susan Ralston, executive director of the Pediatric Proton Foundation, which contributed content to the Protons for Kids website. "Parents need to know about the availability of proton therapy because it can treat childhood cancers in the short term while reducing radiation exposure that could lead to dangerous side effects many years later."

The story of Ralston's son, Jacob, is one of several case examples profiled on the NAPT website. In 2007, when Jacob was two years old, he was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, a rare cancer on his spine, which was treated with proton therapy at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.

The Protons for Kids website includes a gallery of stories like Jacob's and videos with information for parents and families, as well as for physicians. "Doctors are the gatekeepers to access proton therapy and it's important for them to know about this radiation oncology option, and to tell parents," Ralston said.

For kids, the website also includes a coloring and activity book to help youngsters know what to expect and feel comfortable during treatment. The book is provided by ProCure Treatment Centers which operates a proton center in Oklahoma City and will open a second facility in Chicago in October 2010.

About Proton Therapy
Proton beam therapy is an advanced form of radiation therapy used in cancer treatment. It is available at nine operating centers with several additional centers in the planning and construction phase. Unlike standard (X-ray) radiation treatment, proton therapy uses radioactive particles that can be more precisely conformed to target the tumor. The power of protons is that higher doses of radiation can be employed to control and manage cancer while significantly reducing damage to healthy tissue and vital organs.

For more information and a list of proton centers, visit the National Association for Proton Therapy at http://www.proton-therapy.org. Visit Protons for Kids at http://www.proton-therapy.org/pediatric_section.htm.

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Leonard Arzt
NAPT
301 587 6100
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