Proton therapy is a type of radiation therapy that uses protons instead of X-rays. New research suggests it might effectively treat esophageal cancer with less risk of damaging nearby organs.
Esophageal cancer can be hard to treat because of the location of your esophagus, which is near your lungs and heart. Surgery and radiation therapy can have a
Let’s take a deeper look at the potential benefits and risks of proton therapy.
Proton therapy is a type of radiation therapy that’s under investigation for treating esophageal cancer.
Traditional radiation therapy uses X-rays to destroy cancer cells. X-rays can also cause damage to nearby healthy tissue. Your heart and lungs are at particular risk of damage when treating esophageal cancer due to their proximity.
Proton therapy uses beams of protons to destroy cancer cells instead of X-rays. Proton therapy can potentially expose healthy tissue to less radiation while effectively treating the cancer.
There’s still little research comparing the outcomes of people who undergo proton therapy for esophageal cancer with those who don’t. But researchers are hopeful that it could help improve the outlook of esophageal cancer.
Traditional radiation therapy causes high complication rates when used to treat esophageal cancer. The main benefit of proton therapy is that it exposes your healthy cells, especially those in your heart and lungs, to less radiation while potentially offering the same effectiveness.
The researchers found that half the people in their study lived at least 22 months, significantly longer than expected with traditional treatment. For reference, in a 2021 study from the Netherlands, researchers found that half the people with local or regional recurrence of esophageal cancer lived less than 7.4 months.
Proton therapy technology is expensive, and few centers have purchased the necessary equipment.
Despite the higher cost, relatively little research is available examining the survival rates of people who have received proton therapy compared with people who have received traditional radiation therapy.
Although proton therapy may cause less toxicity than traditional radiation therapy, it may still cause complications, some of which could potentially be life threatening, such as:
Research examining the outcomes of using proton therapy for treating esophageal cancer is still in the early stages. Some studies have found promising results.
In a small 2022 study, researchers looked at the combined use of proton therapy and chemotherapy for 17 people with esophageal cancer. The 3-year overall survival rate was
Doctors use radiation therapy to treat almost all stages of esophageal cancer. Proton therapy still isn’t widely available since only a few treatment centers have the necessary equipment.
Proton therapy may make a good alternative to traditional radiation therapy for people who can afford and access the procedure.
Who should avoid it?
- radiation therapy
- chemotherapy and radiation therapy together
- laser therapy (in early stages)
- electrocoagulation (using heat to destroy cancer cells)
Researchers are continuing to look at newer treatments for esophageal cancer that might be more effective than current treatments. One new treatment researchers are looking at is
Here are some frequently asked questions people have about proton therapy for esophageal cancer.
Can proton therapy cure esophageal cancer?
Esophageal cancer is currently
What is the best treatment for esophageal cancer?
The best treatment for esophageal cancer depends on how far your cancer spreads. Treatment usually consists of some combination of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery.
Immunotherapy and targeted therapy are promising new treatments that doctors may combine with other treatments to increase survival rates.
Proton therapy is a type of radiation therapy that uses beams of protons instead of X-rays. Research suggests that it exposes healthy tissue to less radiation and may help reduce toxicity to the heart or lungs.
There’s still little research comparing the effectiveness of proton therapy with traditional radiation therapy for people with esophageal cancer. Researchers hope it may help improve the survival rates of esophageal cancer in the future.