by Gus Iversen
, Editor in Chief | October 31, 2014
The number of children being treated with proton therapy has increased by 36 percent since 2010
, says a report sponsored by the Pediatric Proton Foundation and the National Association for Proton Therapy.
Children with tumors in the central nervous system are excellent candidates for proton therapy because traditional radiotherapy puts them at higher risk of neurocognitive deficits. Their age also puts them at higher risk for developing secondary tumors down the line. Proton therapy significantly reduces both of those risks.
In 2010, 456 people under 18 years of age received proton therapy. The following year that number jumped to 613, and then to 694 the year after that. In 2013, 722 children received proton therapy at one of the 11 proton therapy facilities in the U.S.
Of those 722 patients, only 75 required photon treatment. In some cases photon treatment was utilized for mitigation of dose uncertainty due to metal hardware implants. In other cases it was used to avoid missed treatment days due to maintenance on the proton system.
With 102 cases, medulloblastoma was the most common disease treated. More than half of the pediatric patients were under 10 years old and only 42 percent of them required anesthesia. In 22 percent of the treatments, the pediatric patient originated in a country outside of the U.S.
The total number of pediatric cases treated by each proton therapy center ranged from 14 to 157, with 65 percent of them taking place at one of four academic medical centers associated with large pediatric hospitals.
While the report, which included 100 percent of the proton therapy treatment data for U.S. pediatric patients, comes as good news to proponents of proton therapy, there is still a sizable unmet need for more treatments.
"We estimate that 3,000 newly diagnosed kids in the U.S. might be candidates for proton therapy each year," said Susan Ralston, executive director of the Pediatric Proton Foundation, in the press statement. "So, we still have a long way to go to ensure all eligible children receive this state of the art treatment," she said.