Proton Therapy: New Hope for Patients with Liver Metastases

Loma Linda University Medical Center Researching Non-Invasive Proton Therapy for Liver Metastases

February 04, 2014 11:00 AM Eastern Standard Time

LOMA LINDA, Calif.--()--Initial results from a research study being conducted at Loma Linda University Medical Center’s (LLUMC) James M. Slater, M.D., Proton Treatment and Research Center reveal that proton radiation therapy can successfully treat metastases to the liver and provide new hope for patients afflicted with advanced cancer.

Many types of cancer, including those of the head and neck, colon and rectum, breast, lung, esophagus, and pancreas, can spread to the liver. Since blood from all parts of the body must pass through the liver for filtration, cancer cells from other organs and tissues that reach the liver can lodge and grow into secondary tumors.

“We liken the liver to the body’s Grand Central Station because all tumor cells circulate through it which is why cancer recurrence is most likely to happen there,” said Gary Yang, M.D., professor of radiation medicine and head of the gastrointestinal service in the Department of Radiation Medicine at LLUMC. Dr. Yang is principal investigator of “Stereotactic Body Proton Therapy for Liver Metastases,” a study exploring a better way to manage the condition while sparing harmful effects to the liver. In the study non-invasive proton therapy is given in higher doses than have previously been used with conventional X-ray therapy.

“Typically invasive open surgery and chemotherapy have been the two main options for controlling liver metastases; but due to patients’ immune systems being compromised or because they are weak, aged, and/or frail, many cannot withstand open surgery,” says Dr. Yang. “That is what makes our study and the potential benefits of proton therapy so important. We are in Phase 1 of the study, and our initial results are looking promising. Thus far our patients are showing significant tumor reduction without adverse side effects.”

It is estimated that two-thirds of patients with metastatic breast cancer eventually will present with spread to the liver. Of the more than 150,000 new cases of colorectal cancer that are predicted to occur in the United States this year, up to 50 percent of those patients are estimated to develop liver metastases.

Approximately 60 percent of cancer patients with metastases require radiation. However, the liver can easily be damaged by administering too much radiation. That is why radiation oncologists are interested in developing advanced treatment options – such as proton therapy – for cases that have spread to the liver.

The liver metastases study taking place at LLUMC is currently enrolling qualified patients. For more information about the study, please contact the Department of Radiation Medicine at LLUMC at 800-PROTONS (776-8667), or visit the center online at

About the James M. Slater, M.D., Proton Treatment and Research Center

Established in 1990 the center was the first hospital-based proton therapy facility in the world. Today the center uses proton beam technology for many types of cancers and has treated more patients than any other proton treatment center in the world. The center is part of LLUMC’s comprehensive health system, which is widely respected as a healthcare leader that has pioneered work in such areas as organ transplants, proton treatment for cancers, cardiac care, physical rehabilitation, and acute pediatric and adult care as well as treatments for chemical dependence and other behavioral disorders. The health system – which includes Loma Linda University Medical Center and Children’s Hospital, LLUMC – East Campus, Behavioral Medicine Center, Heart and Surgical Hospital, LLUMC-Murrieta and physician clinics – collectively sees over 30,000 inpatients and about 750,000 outpatient visits a year. Visit us online at

for Loma Linda University Medical Center
Sandra Levy, 818-597-8453, x-4


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