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Mass General Cancer Center Researchers Share Insights on the Evolution of Proton Radiotherapy

A patient lying in a radiotherapy machine.

Advancements in precise form of radiotherapy have roots at Massachusetts General Hospital

As one of the first hospitals in the world to establish a proton radiotherapy program to treat cancer, Massachusetts General Hospital and the Mass General Cancer Center have been pioneers in using and improving proton therapy for treating both benign and malignant tumors effectively while delivering a lower dose of radiation to tissue surrounding the target site. Researchers at MGH have led and continue to lead studies that are defining the best use of proton therapy, which is now being offered at 106 centers worldwide. In a Review article published in The Lancet OncologySusu Yan, PhD, and Thomas Bortfeld, PhD, from the Biophysics Division of MGH’s Department of Radiation Oncology, and co-authors describe the evolution of proton therapy and its benefits to patients and society.

While many new centers have begun providing proton radiotherapy, demand continues to outpace supply and there are critical gaps in access to care — currently, there are no centers in the African continent and only one center in development in South America. In their review article, the authors describe several developments that could help make care more accessible, including decreasing the size of the necessary machinery to fit into a conventional treatment room and improving the efficiency of treatment. They also describe some of the advancements in proton therapy that have helped improve the lives of patients, including advancements made at Mass General Cancer Center.

“Research and development over the past few decades have transformed proton therapy from an extremely rare treatment method to a more common one, although still quite rare,” the authors wrote. “Combining the technological advances with efforts to engage hospitals, academia, industry, regulatory bodies, and funding agencies can make the global democratisation of proton therapy a reality.”

Read more in The Lancet Oncology.