A new form of precision cancer treatment known as proton therapy will soon be available in Australia to treat solid tumours in hard-to-access areas of the body.
The Australian Bragg Centre for Proton Therapy and Research is being built in Adelaide and will be the first centre of its kind in the southern hemisphere.
The precise nature of proton therapy means it is the preferred option for cancers that are close to vital organs such as the eyes, brain and spinal column. Researchers say in select cases, it may be considered for prostate cancer and breast cancer.
APC’s parent charity The Hospital Research Foundation Group has committed $9 million over 10 years to support the Centre’s critical startup costs, specialist recruitment and research resources.
Proton therapy for prostate cancer?
Overseas studies have looked into proton therapy for prostate cancer patients, with a 2021 paper by Yao-Yu Wu and Kang- Hsing Fan stating it is safe, and its efficacy is comparable to that of standard photon-based radiotherapy or brachytherapy.
“Proton therapy can precisely target tumours, thus sparing normal tissues and reducing side effects without sacrificing cancer control,” the study said.
“Data on gastrointestinal, genitourinary and sexual function toxicity profiles are conflicting; however, proton therapy is associated with a low risk of second cancer and has no effects on testosterone levels.”
Studies are still ongoing regarding the differences in patient-reported quality-of-life.
It is also important to note that proton therapy is more expensive than conventional photon radiotherapy, and is unlikely to be covered by Medicare in Australia for prostate cancer.
How does it work?
Proton beam therapy is a painless, non-invasive treatment that targets tumours with high-energy, positively charged particles (protons).
Depending on the cancer being treated, proton therapy can be used alongside conventional radiotherapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and surgery.
Proton therapy has fewer and less severe side effects than conventional radiotherapy. Depending on the area in the body and size of the tumour, some side effects include generalised fatigue, hair loss, swelling or skin irritation at the treatment site.