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Maryland Proton Treatment Center combines hyperthermia with proton therapy

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | October 15, 2018
Rad Oncology Proton Therapy

But Vujaskovic says the combination of both thermal and proton therapies, in theory, is equivalent to carbon ion therapy, which is able to kill more cancer cells due to its high linear energy transfer (LET). The therapy, however, is not available in the U.S.

"You need oxygen to kill tumors with radiation, whether you use protons or photons. But one of the properties of carbon ions is that they are completely oblivious to the fact that a cancer has hypoxia, or a deficiency in oxygen, which is one of the major reasons that tumors are radioresistant to treatment," said Vujaskovic. "The notion is that if you use protons that have a similar capability as carbon ions and use heat that is well-known to re-oxygenize tumors and increase blood flow, you could, in theory (there are not enough clinical trials but some preclinical information), mimic carbon ion therapy. In other words, proton and thermal therapy can be a 'poor man’s' carbon therapy."

MPTC is deploying the approach to treat cancers of the bladder, rectum, cervix, ovaries, pancreas and connective tissue, known as sarcomas, administering the therapy twice a week typically for an hour before or after patients undergo radiotherapy or proton therapy.

CPT codes are available to cover both superficial and deep thermal therapy under insurance, with Vujaskovic reporting positive reimbursement from Medicare and other payors at MPTC.

Purchase of the deep-tissue thermal therapy system was funded through donations from Jack and Emily Howell and the Middendorf Foundation Inc.

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