Proton Therapy for Pediatric Cancers and Other Conditions

The LLUMC Proton Treatment Center is able to treat a variety of pediatric conditions. Please inquire with one of our skilled referral nurses at 1-800-PROTONS for more information on your child’s specific diagnosis.

Brain Tumors in Children

Tumors can develop in the brain in many different forms and severities. Proton treatment for brain tumors is highly individual. For selected adolescent patients, proton radiation therapy can minimize the potentially damaging effects of radiation on the normal developing brain and neighboring structures. For example, using protons to treat children with medulloblastoma minimizes the radiation dose to the middle and inner ear. It also reduces the risk of radiation damage to the pituitary gland and the optic nerves depending on the tumor type and location. Proton therapy offers the best available results achievable equal to using conventional radiation treatment for tumor control.

Orbital and Ocular Tumors in Children

The orbit is the area surrounding the eye containing many important organs and structures. Each of these plays an independent role in eye function. The lacrimal gland is involved in lubricating the eye, as are the small glands located primarily in the upper eyelid. If these glands do not function properly, it can lead to dry-eye syndrome and ultimately cause a complete loss of the eye. To manage cataracts and prevent glaucoma in small children it is highly important to avoid unnecessary irradiation to the lens and the anterior chamber surrounding the eye.

Conventional radiation treatment might threaten eyesight; however, proton radiation therapy has successfully treated orbital rhabdomyosarcomas and retinoblastomas. Sparing a few additional millimeters of normal eye through proton therapy can affect the differences in eye function later in life. Some pediatric tumors treated include:

  • Sarcomas of the paranasal sinuses
  • Parameningeal rhabdomyosarcomas
  • Meningiomas

Sarcomas of the Base of Skull and Spine in Children

Once the safety of the treatment was firmly established in adults, physicians began using protons with increasing frequency in pediatric patients. Proton radiation therapy is successful for chordomas and chondrosarcomas of the base of skull and along the spine in adult patients as well as children. Currently, the experience includes a variety of:

  • Osteogenic sarcomas
  • Chondrogenic sarcomas (i.e., chordomas, chondrosarcomas)
  • Other soft tissue sarcomas (malignant fibrous, histiocytomas, synovial cell sarcoma, and others)
  • Principally benign but locally aggressive tumors (i.e., giant cell tumors, chondroblastomas, and osteoblastomas)

Tumors can be treated by proton radiation alone or in conjunction with chemotherapy. As is true of all consultations in the department of radiation medicine, conducting a careful review determining if additional surgery and tumor resection prior to proton radiation treatment would improve the chance of success.