A New Way to Treat Cancer


Nhaya Vaidya

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There are thousands of cancer treatments that are out there and more are being researched every day. One of the newer ones is known as Proton Beam Radiation Therapy.

For her Ulysses project, senior Ally Salvino decided to research the treatment.

She became aware of the treatment through her dad who has been working in hospital construction for 14 years.

“The summer before my junior year he finished his most recent project, building the Inova Women’s Hospital and Inova Children’s Hospital. All of the families of the builders came to visit the building for a lunch reception, speeches and a tour. During the tour my dad pointed out the window to show me where the next project was going to be,” she said.

The building was to be a cancer treatment facility that would offer proton therapy to its patients.

After falling ill and landing in the hospital, Ally decided to research colon cancer and its treatments. A family member was diagnosed with the cancer and she wanted to learn more about it. Remembering the proton therapy her dad mentioned she decided to learn more about it and see if it would be a treatment option for her aunt.

“I learned that it wasn’t a appropriate treatment for my aunt, although I became really interested in it and decided I wanted to learn more when the time came to choose a research project.”

Currently the treatment is not an option for all cancers but, can be used to treat breast, lung, brain, head and neck, prostate, and pediatric cancers. There is no age limit to who can receive the treatment as long as the proton therapy is deemed a suitable treatment option.

So, what is better about proton therapy rather than normal radiation therapy?

“The proton radiation is significantly less toxic than is proton therapy, as it allows for better, more precise control of the beam, leading to less radiation and toxicity to healthy tissue and vital organs,” Ally replied.

Due to the decrease in radiation delivered higher doses of radiation can be administered allowing for a faster treatment time and a lower rate of cancer recurrence.

While there are many health benefits for the patient, the building fees can be excessive. The beginning cost starts at $300 million and due to this there are only about fifty treatment facilities around the world. Twenty-six of these are in the United States.

Traditional radiation is $39,000 while proton radiation therapy is $64,000, yet most insurances will not cover the proton radiation.

The downside to the improved treatments is that the costs tend to be much greater than the conventional methods. While cancer innovations are rising, costs are too. Perhaps one day the costs will fall so the patients can receive the needed treatment without emptying their bank account in the process.

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