Study Reveals 36% Increase in Children Treated at US Proton Centers

By The National Association for Proton Therapy, published Wed., Oct. 29, 2014

Proton beam therapy does not cause the serious side effects associated with conventional radiation for children with brain and spinal cancers.

Jacob RalstonHOUSTON, TX  -- The number of children suffering from brain and spinal cancers who were treated with an advanced form of radiation at proton therapy centers in the U.S. rose 36% since 2010, according to a study released on October 28, 2014 at the first annual meeting of the Particle Therapy  Cooperative Group (PT-COG) North America in Houston, Texas.  Sponsored by the Pediatric Proton Foundation  (PPF) and the National Association for Proton Therapy (NAPT), the report of the annual study, called Pediatric Proton Therapy in the United States:  Patterns of Care, reveals that the number of children treated at U.S .proton therapy centers continues to rise each year. 

Proton therapy offers tremendous advantages in treating certain pediatric cancers.  Conventional radiation for pediatric brain tumors has been associated with long-term neurocognitive deficits, including decreases in IQ, and difficulties with attention, processing speed and executive skills.  Even low dose traditional radiation to glands in the brain may cause life-long detrimental effects on hormone production and growth.  Unlike conventional X-ray therapy, proton therapy uses high speed particles that can be more precisely conformed to treat the tumor while sparing healthy tissue and without an exit dose.  The decreased radiation dose outside the tumor is especially critical for children since the risk of secondary, radiation-induced tumors may reach 25% in long term survivors treated with conventional radiotherapy.

According to the survey, In 2013, the average pediatric  proton patient was less than 10 years old, with a curable brain tumor or axial sarcoma. At 3 of the 4 largest pediatric programs, medulloblastoma was the most common tumor treated.

The survey reports that 722 children and adolescents were treated with proton radiation at eleven proton therapy centers in the U.S. in 2013.  Of those, 22% of the patients originated outside the U.S.

"We are excited to see the number of children receiving proton therapy continue to increase throughout the U.S. Proton therapy provides cancer-stricken children pin point accurate radiation to the cancerous tumor site, preventing surrounding healthy tissue from receiving unnecessary radiation. Children’s bodies are still growing and forming so it is critical to avoid healthy tissue when possible, " said Susan Ralston, Executive Director of the Pediatric Proton Foundation. "At the same time, there is still a huge unmet need in the U.S. and the world. We estimate that 3,000 newly diagnosed kids in the U.S. might be candidates for proton therapy each year, so we still have a long way to go to ensure all eligible children receive this state of the art treatment," she said.

Dr. Daniel Indelicato, director of pediatric radiation oncology at the University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute, Jacksonville, FL  presented the survey results at the PTCOG meeting.  He co-authors the annual study with  Dr. Andrew L. Chang, a radiation oncologist at Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute, Hampton, VA. Both authors serve on the Board of Directors of the PPF.

“Each year we enhance the survey to keep it simple for the centers to complete, while gathering important information about patterns of care in pediatric proton therapy in the U.S. This is our 5th year of comprehensive data and 100% response from all U.S. centers," Dr. Indelicato said.

The Pediatric Proton Foundation

The Pediatric Proton Foundation (PPF) is uniquely positioned as an independent, non-profit charity that relies on voluntary funding from a variety of sources to be able to provide the most objective information available about pediatric cancer treatment at each proton center in the U.S. Founded in 2008 by Susan Ralston, the mission of the organization is to provide education, advocacy and assistance to families in need of pediatric protons. The PPF is a non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization and gratefully accepts public donations. For more information, visit

The National Association for Proton Therapy

The National Association for Proton Therapy (NAPT) is a non-profit organization supported by proton center members and is the Voice of the Proton Community.  The NAPT provides education and public awareness for the clinical benefits of proton beam radiation therapy.   It serves as a resource center for professionals, policymakers, patients and media interested in proton therapy.  For more information, visit




Len Arzt     

Susan Ralston
National Association for Proton Therapy    Pediatric Proton Foundation
301-587-6100                      757-641-0479


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