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James D. Cox, M.D.

Dr. James D. Cox, professor and former head of the Division of Radiation Oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, has been a part of many advances in the field of radiation oncology throughout his distinguished career, but he holds one especially close to his heart.

James Cox, MD“The opening of the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center in 2006 was the culmination of one of my greatest dreams,” said Cox, also a professor. “The innovation in treating cancer with technology continues to evolve, and the use of proton therapy to treat cancerous tumors is one of the key technological advances of my lifetime.”

One of the things that Cox appreciates about proton therapy is the accuracy with which he and his colleagues can deliver treatment to patients.

“The Proton Therapy Center allows us to offer our patients the most precise radiation therapy available,” he explained. “When I started in this field 30 years ago, we gave radiation to large areas of the body because we couldn’t determine the exact location of the tumor. But with proton therapy and our advanced imaging capabilities, we can deliver powerful treatment down to sub-millimeters – that’s the width of a human hair – while sparing healthy tissues around it and ultimately limiting side effects.”

And it’s this precision that provides the greatest benefit. Proton therapy can be especially beneficial to children with cancer whose bodies are still developing, as well as patients with cancers of the lung or esophagus and lymphoma, where the tumor is in the chest or near very sensitive structures that are not as able to withstand the high doses of radiation needed to kill the tumor.

“The more we can do to target radiation treatment directly to the tumor while limiting exposure to other healthy tissues and vital organs, the more we can help our patients tolerate treatment better,” said Cox. “They have fewer side effects and, often times, a reduced chance of secondary cancers later in life.”

As MD Anderson continues to expand the types of tumors treated with proton therapy, Cox looks to the future with great hope and excitement.

“Our incredible team of physicians and researchers see no boundaries in what we can do to advance the field of proton therapy to benefit cancer patients,” he said. “We have already made great strides in making proton therapy available for more disease sites than any other center, including using protons combined with chemotherapy to treat lymphoma. We can also treat patients whose tumors are resistant to chemotherapy.”

Cox points out that proton therapy offers lymphoma patients an option they did not have just a short time ago.

“That’s why we’re here – to save lives and offer innovative treatments to our patients. Proton therapy allows us to do that. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

© 2016 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center