Proton Therapy for Pediatric Cancer

Fight Pediatric Cancer with Laser-like Precision

At California Protons, we foster close collaboration among patients, parents and clinicians to create a personalized treatment plan tailored precisely to a child’s unique needs. Our intensity-modulated pencil beam scanning technology is a highly precise form of cancer radiation treatment that enables our doctors to selectively target a child’s pediatric tumor(s) with highly-controlled doses. This is extremely valuable for children and teens who are still growing, more sensitive to radiation and face greater risks from radiation exposure.

Compared with older passive-scattering proton therapy treatment, our pencil beam scanning technology precisely delivers proton radiation to tumors within 2 millimeters and with the utmost care. We can attack pediatric tumors layer by layer and minimize harmful exposure to surrounding healthy tissue and organs. By depositing the highest-energy portion of the dose directly in the tumor, we reduce exposure to healthy tissue and the associated side effects that may lead to future problems, including stunted growth, cognitive impairment and radiation-induced secondary cancers. The reduction of radiation-related toxicity also increases the likelihood that children can complete treatment with fewer interruptions or delays, stay active and continue their normal activities.

Pediatric Cancer Proton
Therapy Treatment Details

Types of Pediatric Cancer Treated

  • Astrocytoma and other gliomas, including optic pathway/hypothalamic glioma, oligodendroglioma, oligoastrocytoma, anaplastic astrocytoma
  • Atypical teratoid/Rhabdoid tumors
  • Craniopharyngioma
  • Ependymoma
  • Medulloblastoma
  • Pineoblastoma
  • Intracranial germ cell tumors (germinoma)
  • Meningioma
  • Retinoblastoma
  • Nasopharyngeal carcinoma
  • Juvenile angiofibromas
  • Lymphoma
  • Neuroblastoma
  • Neurofibroma
  • Osteosarcoma
  • Ewing’s sarcoma/Primitive neuro-ectodermal tumor (PNET)
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma
  • Desmoid tumor
  • Histiocytosis X
  • Recurrent Cancer

How We Treat Pediatric Cancers

  • Target the tumor only
  • Protect healthy tissues and surrounding organs
  • Maintain a child’s quality of life during treatment
  • Reduce side effects of radiation therapy, including stunted growth, cognitive impairment, hearing loss and hormonal issues
  • Lower the risk of secondary cancer due to radiation

Our Partners in Care – Rady Children’s Hospital

Pediatric Cancer Proton Therapy Patient & OncologistOur team at California Protons partners with Rady Children’s Hospital pediatric radiation oncologists, pediatric anesthesiologists and pediatric nurses so children are cared for by pediatric experts every step of the way. In addition, our young patients have a dedicated building entrance, a child-friendly play area, a healing outdoor garden and their own recovery room separate from our adult patients.

Benefits of Proton Therapy for Pediatric Cancer

  • Our pencil beam scanning technology precisely controls protons to place the Bragg peak—the point at which they deposit their maximum energy—directly in the tumor. This allows us to treat more complex tumor shapes and vary the dose within the tumor.
  • Advanced proton therapy allows doctors to more selectively deliver high-dose radiation to cancerous pediatric tumors and tissues, and reduce the dose to surrounding healthy tissues and critical organs. In some cases, this has been shown to deliver higher cure rates than X-ray radiation treatment even in some of the most challenging situations.
  • The pinpoint accuracy of our pencil beam advanced imaging brings tremendous benefits for pediatric patients. This is particularly true with brain and spinal cancers. Precise targeting in the brain means fewer developing neurons are exposed to potentially damaging radiation. In the spine, this precision translates into less radiation in surrounding tissues, such as the heart, lungs, stomach and reproductive organs.
  • Proton therapy’s ability to spare healthy tissues from radiation reduces the risk of cognitive decline in children and adolescents with Ependymoma, a common malignant brain tumor. When treated with standard X-ray radiation, it can stunt brain development and impair other cognitive abilities.
  • Compared to passively scattered protons, our proton therapy for children expands the treatment options to treat more types of tumors and more irregularly shaped tumors, including difficult-to-reach tumors close to vital organs. Aggressive cancers can also be treated with higher doses and recurrent cancers can be targeted despite previous radiation treatments.
  • Unlike with older technology, the treatment plan can be loaded into the computer and completed within a matter of minutes. Treatments are also noninvasive and convenient so patients can get back to their daily activities quicker.

Proton Therapy
Right for Your Child?


Because pediatric patients are sensitive to radiation therapy, proton beam therapy may be an effective option for many cancers. Many kids and adolescents tolerate proton therapy well, however, individual responses can vary. The number and length of treatments will fluctuate based on the type cancer. Depending on the stage and type, combined treatments of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation may be needed for some pediatric tumors. Treatment options also are affected by the type of cancer, age, overall health and personal preferences.

Medulloblastoma is a cerebellar brain tumor that starts in the base of the skull and can spread to other parts of the brain and spinal cord. The treatment usually involves a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation to the entire brain and spine. Proton therapy is extremely beneficial for treating medulloblastoma in children because it can prevent radiation dose to the heart, lungs, bowel and other normal tissues. By limiting the radiation, proton therapy reduces the short-term side effects and long-term risk of delayed or abnormal organ development, secondary cancers, heart and lung disease, scar tissue formation and stunted growth.

Ependymoma tumors usually form in the intracranial region of the brain and affect tissues in the central nervous system. Treatment usually involves surgery, followed by radiation. Proton therapy allows for ultra-precise delivery of the relatively high dose of radiation required to control this tumor. This is of vital importance, given the close proximity to the brain, brainstem, spinal cord and optic tracts. These sensitive neural structures also require very special care to ensure they are not damaged by excessive radiation doses.

Germinoma and non-germinomatous germ cell tumors (NGGCT) are brain tumors that develop in the germ cells and occur most commonly in children and young adults. Depending on the subtype of the tumor, treatment can vary, but most involve some combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Proton therapy greatly decreases the amount of normal brain tissue that is exposed to the effects of radiation therapy. It also spares other normal tissues and organs in the vicinity of the areas that are at risk for harboring additional disease and require treatment, such as such as the heart, lungs and bowel, whole ventricular system and craniospinal axis.

Lymphoma is a category of cancers that starts in the cells of the immune system. Treatment generally involves a combination of chemotherapy and radiation. Because many lymphomas involve the chest area, proton therapy can be very helpful for pediatric patients, due to its superior ability to spare the heart, lungs, breasts and spine of unnecessary radiation. By limiting the radiation dose, proton therapy for children also decreases the long-term side effects of radiation, such as heart or lung disease, secondary cancers and stunted growth.

Pediatric Proton Therapy
Treatment for Recurrent Cancer

Proton therapy is often the best way to treat recurrent tumors in areas that have previously been treated with conventional radiation therapy.

Treating previously irradiated areas can be challenging. The healthy tissues around the recurrent tumor do not fully “forget” the previous radiation dose, and any added dose continues to increase the risk of normal tissue injury. Proton beam therapy may enable doctors to better concentrate the dose to the target and limit it elsewhere, allowing re-treatment with radiation in select patients.

Treatment Outcomes &
Long-Term Effects

Proton therapy treatment at California Protons Cancer Therapy Center in San Diego may offer similar outcomes to standard X-ray radiation, while reducing long-term and potentially life-threatening side effects such as stunted growth, cognitive impairment, hearing loss and hormonal issues due to radiation damage to healthy tissues and organs. It also offers the possibility of lower chances for secondary cancers later in life due to the reduced radiation exposure to your surrounding healthy tissues and organs.

However, all cancer treatments have advantages and disadvantages. Be sure to discuss all of the potential risks, as well as treatment options, with your child’s oncologist.

We chose proton therapy because of its ability to safely penetrate into the brainstem to reach a part of the tumor that couldn’t be touched before. And since the technology at California Protons is the newest and most advanced in the country, we thought ‘why go anywhere else?'
Father of Natalie Wright
Pediatric Brain Tumor Patient

About Proton Therapy

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