‘Compared to normal X-ray radiation, protons are about 60 per cent less harmful for the body’
Medicine, like any other speciality, is constantly evolving with advances in research and technology.
And in a speciality like radiation oncology, the focus has always been on improving the quality of life of patients undergoing cancer treatment that includes chemotherapy and radiation.
In tune with the objective of making things better for the unfortunate who suffer from cancer, proton therapy is increasingly finding acceptance.
Arguably the latest in cancer care, it involves the use of charged particles to target cancerous tissue.
‘Protons less harmful’
And unlike the present times, where radiation generated by a machine bores through the body, affecting also the healthy cells on the way, protons hit the affected part and stay put. Also, in conventional therapy, the rays harm healthy tissue on their way to attacking the tumour.
Compared to normal X-ray radiation, protons are about 60 per cent less harmful for the body, says Dr. Stephen M. Hahn of the Department of Radiation Oncology, Hospital of the University of the University of Pennsylvania, USA.
An expert in the treatment of prostate cancers using the convention radiation therapy for over a decade and a half since he graduated from the Temple University School Medicine, Dr. Hahn has for the past seven, eight years, earned a name for himself as a radiation oncologist using protons.
He spoke to The Hindu during a visit to attend Cancer CI 2013, a conference of radiation oncologists from across the world.
Protons are energised to specific velocities determined by the oncologist as to how deeply in the human body they were expected to deposit their maximum energy.
It means fewer side-effects, more direct impact on the tumour and the patient feels nothing while undergoing treatment, said Dr. Hahn.
As for the therapy’s acceptance and adoption in India, the Apollo Hospitals has announced plans to invest Rs. 400 crore on a facility including a proton generator with five simultaneous channels of treatment at Chennai.
It is expected to be commissioned in about two years from now.