National Association for Proton Therapy and Pediatric Proton Foundation Release First Snapshot of Treatment Data on Children at U.S. Proton Centers

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Brain cancer is the main tumor target for proton therapy - an advanced form of radiation treatment according to the National Association for Proton Therapy and the Pediatric Proton Foundation.

Jacob Ralston is the son of Susan Ralston, the Founder and Executive Director of the Pediatric Proton Foundation.

Jacob Ralston - Proton Recipient and Patient Advocate

"Although many different tumors types were treated in 2010, there seems to be a particular emphasis on pediatric brain tumors and sarcomas," reports Dr. Daniel Indelicato, a radiation oncologist at the University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute.

A total of 465 children and adolescents were treated at the nation's nine proton therapy centers in 2010, according to a new survey, presented recently at the Children's Oncology Group (COG) meeting in Atlanta. COG is the world's largest organization devoted to childhood and adolescent cancer research. The findings provide the first comprehensive look at proton therapy in children.

"Although many different tumors types were treated in 2010, there seems to be a particular emphasis on pediatric brain tumors and sarcomas," reports Dr. Daniel Indelicato, a radiation oncologist at the University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute who presented the survey results. "Although in 2010, two-thirds of patients were treated at Massachusetts General Hospital, M.D. Anderson, and the University of Florida, I am encouraged by the emergence of other facilities who are building pediatric programs." He notes, “The survey results confirm that pediatric proton therapy is resource intense and involves a dedicated multidisciplinary team: Approximately 50% of patients treated in 2010 needed daily anesthesia for treatment and three of six of the most common tumors required the delivery of chemotherapy along with their proton therapy.”

In keeping with its prevalence, approximately 75% of the young patients treated with protons had brain tumors. More than half of children treated were under eight years old. The most frequently treated tumors were ependymomas, low-grade gliomas, and medulloblastomas. Other commonly treated tumors include rhabdomyosarcomas, Ewing's sarcomas, and craniopharyngiomas.

"We are proud to report that all operational U.S. centers treat children," said Leonard Arzt, Executive Director of NAPT. "It is widely known that the particular advantages of proton therapy take on even greater significance for the youngest patients."

One of the most important advantages of proton therapy is its capacity to kill tumor cells while sparing healthy tissue nearby, such as in the brain or other vital organs, from the adverse effects of radiation exposure. Traditional radiation in pediatric brain tumors has been associated with long-term neurocognitive deficits including decreases in IQ, difficulties with attention, processing speed and other executive skills. Also, even low dose radiation to glands in the brain may have a life-long detrimental effect on hormone production and growth. Protons have the ability to target tumors with high precision and have no exit dose. The decreased radiation dose outside the tumor is especially critical for children since the risk of secondary, radiation-induced tumors may reach 25% in long term survivors treated with conventional radiotherapy.

"Families need to know that there's hope when a child receives a cancer diagnosis and that proton therapy is the state of the art in the field of radiation oncology," said Susan Ralston, Executive Director of the Pediatric Proton Foundation. "At the same time, the unmet need is enormous since proton treatment is of finite availability. We estimate that 3,000 newly diagnosed kids might be candidates for proton therapy each year," she said.

Both NAPT and the Foundation advocate for expanded proton therapy center development and increased treatment access for children. The organizations plan to continue and enhance pediatric data collection and tracking in the future.

About Proton Therapy
Proton beam therapy is an advanced form of radiation therapy used in cancer treatment. It is available at nine operating U.S. centers with several additional facilities in the planning and construction phase, including two scheduled to open in 2012. 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, a list of proton centers, and a copy of our slides, visit the National Association for Proton Therapy at http://www.proton-therapy.org or the Pediatric Proton Foundation at http://www.pediatricprotonfoundation.org.

About the National Association for Proton Therapy (NAPT)
The National Association for Proton Therapy (NAPT) is a non-profit organization supported by proton center members and is the Voice of the Proton Community. The NAPT promotes education and public awareness for the clinical benefits of proton beam radiation therapy. Founded in 1990, NAPT is an advocate for the advancement of proton therapy. It serves as a resource center for patients, physicians and health care providers, universities, academic medical centers, hospitals, cancer centers, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and other health care agencies, the U.S. Congress and staff, and the news media. For more information visit the website at http://www.proton-therapy.org.

About the Pediatric Proton Foundation
The Pediatric Proton Foundation (PPF) is uniquely positioned as an independent, nonprofit charity that relies on voluntary funding from a variety of sources to be able to provide the most objective information available about pediatric cancer treatment at each proton center in the U.S. Founded in 2008 by Susan Ralston, the mission of the organization is to provide education, advocacy and assistance to families in need of pediatric protons. The PPF is a non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization and graciously accepts public donations. For more information, visit the Pediatric Proton Foundation’s website at: http://www.pediatricprotonfoundation.org.

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