Ask the Expert: Proton Therapy Expert
Publication: Texas Monthly
December 01, 2023
By Andrew K. Lee, M.D., MPH
WHAT IS PROTON THERAPY?
Proton therapy delivers targeted radiation to tumors, guided by the center's advanced, accurate imaging equipment. Texas Center for Proton Therapy uses a 30-foot-tall, 110-ton machine that rotates 360 degrees to enable precise positioning of the proton beams on a patient's tumor. Physicists and engineers have meticulously calibrated the proton beam equipment to extreme accuracy. A 220-ton cyclotron is the centerpiece of this proton beam equipment. This machine accelerates protons to two-thirds the speed of light extracted from hydrogen atoms. It then creates a proton beam line traveling nearly half the length of a football field with accuracy within 1 millimeter. The protons delivered to the tumor destroy cancerous cells, while minimizing damage to the surrounding healthy tissue.
WHERE IS PROTON THERAPY FOR THE TREATMENT OF CANCER OFFERED IN NORTH TEXAS?
For eight years, North Texas has had an advantage in the fight against cancer by having Texas Center for Proton Therapy in its own backyard. It's the first and only proton therapy center in Dallas-Fort Worth and the most technologically advanced cancer treatment option in the region. The 63,000-square-foot facility, located in Irving/Las Colinas, is one of approximately 42 proton therapy treatment centers in operation in the United States and is the first stand-alone LEED-Certified proton therapy center in the country. We have accomplished one of our goals, which was to improve the overall level of cancer care for Dallas-Fort Worth patients, and we have done this through a combination of technological advances, hard work, and gaining expertise on how to better utilize the technology we have. For instance, the center has three pencil-beam scanning proton machines and the ability to do volumetric on-board cone-beam CT imaging when a patient is on the treatment table. We use an ultra-line proton beam with pencil-point precision across each layer of the tumor. Essentially, we delicately paint the tumor with radiation. It's the ideal technology for Irregularly shaped tumors near sensitive areas. Additionally, pencil beams of protons can be combined to treat large tumors as well. There Is a significant advantage of pencil beam proton therapy for larger tumors.
WHAT TYPES OF CANCER CAN BE TREATED WITH PROTON THERAPY?
As of fall 2023, the center has treated more than 4,000 new patients, and about 16 percent of those have been pediatric patients. Any solid tumor that requires radiation as a treatment component could likely be treated with proton therapy—brain, head and neck, lung, prostate as well as other gastrointestinal and genitourinary cancers. We also treat breast cancer, whether it's part of breast conservation therapy or after a mastectomy and we need to irradiate the chest wall. Proton therapy is also a good option for patients in need of treatment for adjacent lymph nodes. Any patient who has been told that they need radiation therapy should look into proton therapy as an option for primary treatment or in combination with other therapies. A doctor's referral is not needed to schedule a consultation at Texas Center for Proton Therapy.
This article originally appeared in Texas Monthly.