Proton Therapy for Sarcoma

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Proton therapy is an advanced treatment that delivers radiation to the exact size, shape and depth of your tumor. It lets your physician treat your cancer while helping to protect nearby tissue. This makes proton therapy a good option for treating tumors near healthy organs, including sarcomas.

Jim Copen
"My biggest fear when it came to choosing a treatment plan was either that it wouldn’t work or that it might do damage elsewhere. I am a scientist, I did my research and I decided on proton therapy."
— Jim, sarcoma survivor
What is Proton Therapy? with Dr. Ramesh Rengan

Tough on Your Tumor. Easier on Your Body.

To treat sarcoma, physicians often use radiation therapy along with chemotherapy or surgery. This combination can be hard on patients, and some patients can’t have standard X-ray radiation therapy because it would cause too much harm to the healthy tissue near their tumor. For these patients, proton radiation therapy can be a good choice. It sends more radiation to the tumor with a goal of sending much less to nearby tissue and organs, often causing fewer side effects.

Until recently, patients and physicians accepted these side effects as a trade-off for treating the cancer. But with proton radiation therapy, we can reduce the risks. Proton therapy sends radiation to your tumor very accurately. The goal is for less radiation to reach your healthy tissue nearby.

Proton therapy uses a unique feature of protons: They give off the most radiation right before they come to a stop. Then the radiation falls to zero. That’s how we target treatment to your cancer and no further. If you have sarcoma, the radiation oncologists at our proton therapy facility can decide if proton therapy is right for you and tell you more about this option.

brain scan
These pictures show an example of treatment for a brain tumor comparing protons and X-ray radiation. The colored areas get radiation. The black, gray and white areas do not. With proton therapy (left), less healthy tissue is exposed to radiation. With standard X-ray radiation therapy (right), more healthy tissue is exposed.
Bragg Peak Graph
With X-ray radiation therapy (dark blue line), the radiation dose peaks soon after entering the body. Then it gradually decreases, often long before reaching the tumor. Healthy tissue around the tumor receives much of the dose instead. With proton therapy (medium blue and purple lines), treatment conforms more closely to the tumor. This means less radiation is deposited in the healthy tissue in front of the tumor compared to X-ray therapy. Almost none is deposited in the healthy tissue beyond the tumor.

When is Proton Therapy an Option?

Patients with sarcoma may have a wide range of treatment options, based on the type, location and stage of the cancer. Usually, treatment options include proton therapy, standard X-ray radiation therapy, surgery, chemotherapy, cryotherapy and radiofrequency ablation. 

Proton therapy is an important option, especially if: 

  • Your tumor is in your abdomen or close to vital organs. 
  • You are trying to preserve certain functions, like your fertility.
  • You have had radiation therapy before.
  • Your cancer has come back after treatment (possibly in a different part of your body than your original tumor).

Compared to standard radiation therapy, proton radiation therapy can be better at sparing healthy tissue near the tumor from the harmful effects of radiation. This matters most if you are likely to need treatment several times over many years.

Types of Sarcoma Treated with Proton Therapy

Proton therapy may be an option for people with a wide range of sarcomas, including:

  • Chordoma
  • Leiomyosarcoma 
  • Liposarcoma 
  • Myxoid liposarcoma
  • Well differentiated liposarcoma
  • Dedifferentiated liposarcoma
  • Pleomorphic liposarcoma
  • Undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma
  • Myxofibrosarcoma 
  • Fibrosarcoma 
  • Clear cell sarcoma
  • Angiosarcoma 
  • Chondrosarcoma
  • Osteosarcoma
  • Spine sarcoma
  • Ewing sarcoma 
  • Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor 
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma 
  • Synovial sarcoma 
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumor
  • Many childhood sarcomas

Learn More

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Our proton therapy team is here not only to treat your disease, but to listen to you and take care of you and your family. They are experts in proton therapy who focus on giving you personalized treatment and who understand your questions, needs and concerns.

For a young woman who wanted children, proton therapy was the solution Proton therapy spared Jane's healthy reproductive tissue during treatment for sarcoma. July 7, 2022