Proton Therapy Provides Innovative Treatment Options for Head and Neck Cancer

SEATTLE — April 23, 2014 — More than 100,000 people will be diagnosed with head and neck cancer this year in the United States, according to the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance. While many cancers of the head and neck are curable, patients face a number of challenges due to the complex location of these tumors. Physicians are tasked with preserving healthy surrounding structures such as the optic nerves, eyes, brain stem, and spinal cord while also treating a patient’s malignant tumor. SCCA Proton Therapy, A ProCure Center provides patients with an advanced and highly precise form of radiation treatment that can help improve tumor control while minimizing the side effects from treatment.

“I was first introduced to proton therapy by my doctors,” said Keith Deaver, a recent SCCA Proton Therapy patient who underwent treatment in 2013 for his rare sinus cancer. “With its minimal side effects, proton therapy was the best fit for treating my tumor. While no one ever wants to get cancer, it’s nice to know there are options out there that not only fight the tumor but preserve your quality of life. I am glad I chose proton therapy and the team I worked with at the center was great throughout my treatment.”

Protons offer potential advantages in treating cancers of the head and neck by delivering high radiation doses to the cancer target while sparing sensitive structures. As a result, proton therapy may reduce the risk of side effects and late complications from radiation treatment, which can include neurologic complications such as blindness and hearing loss as well as effects such as xerostomia that impact one’s quality of life. Proton therapy may also allow patients to better tolerate systemic therapies like chemotherapy when combined with radiation therapy. In patients with recurrences after previous radiation therapy, proton therapy may allow further treatment to be done while minimizing the risks.

“Our patients and their families face tremendous challenges both with completing treatment and dealing with the late effects of treatment,” said Dr. Jay Liao, a Radiation Oncologist, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance Proton Therapy, A ProCure Center. “Fortunately, there is a lot of active investigation and research in this disease from multiple angles focused on improving both cure rates as well as quality of life. We’re seeing a number of technological developments, including advances in proton therapy, and development of clinical trials that will lead to further progress for helping more patients.”

Tobacco (including smokeless tobacco) and alcohol use are the most important risk factors for head and neck cancers.  Over the past decade, an increasing number of younger, non- smokers are being diagnosed with head and neck cancers associated with the human papilloma virus, or HPV.

The Head and Neck Cancer Alliance, formerly the Yul Brynner Head and Neck Cancer Foundation, kicked off National Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week (OHANCAW®) on April 20th. OHANCAW consists of a weeklong series of events to promote education and awareness.

Media Contact:
Fred Hutch Media Team