YOUR HEALTH: First-in-human trial; faster proton therapy

The best treatment at the time was highly focused proton therapy delivered by a specialized machine.
Published: Jun. 5, 2023 at 6:04 AM CDT
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CINCINNATI, Ohio (Ivanhoe Newswire) - University of Cincinnati researchers are conducting a first-in-human trial of a radiation treatment that they say holds promise in treating tough-to-kill tumors. The researchers are delivering the radiation with proton therapy - a procedure that uses a large, specialized machine called a gantry.

Kelly Murphy was just 11 when he started to have pounding headaches out of the blue.

“I had almost complete lack of vision,” Kelly painfully remembers.

Kelly’s doctors diagnosed him with a brain tumor. The best treatment at the time was highly focused proton therapy delivered by a specialized machine. He and his family relocated to be closer to treatment. Kelly wore a specialized mask to keep his head in place during those treatments.

Medical Director of Proton Therapy at the UC Children’s Hospital, John Breneman, MD says “It differs from the conventional type of radiation therapy in that we can steer it differently.”

Now for the first time, researchers are studying FLASH proton therapy in humans. FLASH delivers proton radiation up to one thousand times faster than what is used clinically today.

“So, a treatment that might typically take a minute would be delivered in half a second. That can even further spare some of the normal tissue from the effects of radiation,” Dr. Breneman explains.

Because FLASH proton therapy is being tested in a clinical trial, the current participants must be adults, but researchers are hoping the findings of this trial will allow them to expand.

“One research question is, will FLASH be able to help us cure kids with D.I.P.G. or other tumors that we can’t cure right now?,” said Pediatric Oncologist at the UC Children’s Hospital, John Perentesis, MD.

After having traditional proton therapy and chemo, Kelly Murphy was able to ring the chimes, signaling the end of treatment, and now 18, he’s cancer-free.

Preclinical trials in animals suggested that the FLASH proton therapy could safely deliver treatment with fewer side effects, but prior to the University of Cincinnati trial, it had never been tested in humans. The trial focused on patients with bone cancer in their limbs. Researchers say the next human trial is enrolling adult patients with bone cancers that are closer to the lungs and hearts.

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