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With its ability to target tumors precisely while minimizing damage to healthy tissue, proton therapy has rapidly gained a foothold as an option for radiation treatment in the past decade. And MD Anderson has gone a step beyond. The institution is the only center in North America to treat patients with one of the most advanced forms of proton therapy, called intensity modulated proton therapy with multi-field optimization (IMPT).
How it works: IMPT relies on complex treatment planning systems and an intricate number of magnets to aim a narrow proton beam and essentially “paint” a radiation dose layer by layer.
Diseases treated: IMPT is best used to deliver a potent and precise dose of protons to tumors embedded in the nooks and crannies of the head and neck or skull base, including nasal and sinus cavities; oral cavity; salivary gland, tongue, tonsils and larynx.
Clinical trial: This summer, MD Anderson will open the first trial comparing IMPT to intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), which is the standard of care for radiation therapy in head and neck cancer.
“In the era of personalized medicine, IMPT is a type of radiation so sophisticated that we can adjust it to a patient’s specific tumor with unique precision,” says Steven Frank, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology. “It’s especially well-suited for patients with complicated tumors nestled in the head and neck region where you want to retain key functions, such as vision, speech, swallowing and taste.”
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