February 10, 2020
Hackensack Meridian John Theurer Cancer Center now offers the most technologically advanced method to deliver radiation treatments to cancerous tumors available today called proton beam therapy (“proton therapy”). Through our new clinical affiliation with ProCure Proton Therapy Center (ProCure NJ) in Somerset, NJ, Hackensack Meridian Health patients now have access to all available forms of radiation therapy.
Conventional radiation therapy uses X-ray particles called photons to target tumors that have two inconveniences. First, they radiate all tissues “in the way of the radiation beam” and second, after reaching their target – the tumor – some particles called photons “scatters” to nearby tissues, leading to more toxicity. By contrast, in proton beam therapy, the particles called protons enter the body at a low energy level and release most of their energy upon impact with the tumor, so there is no “exit” dose reducing by over 60% the exposure to radiation of nearby healthy tissues. This is an especially important benefit when a tumor is located near critical organs or structures such as the brain, heart, or spinal cord. As proton beam therapy delivers highly-targeted energy (pin-point radiation) with less toxicity, higher doses can be delivered to the tumor safely. Proton beam therapy is now recognized as at least as effective as conventional radiation therapy with much less toxicity.
“At Hackensack Meridian Health, we’ve long provided a wide range of highly precise radiation therapy technologies to meet our patients’ needs, treatments that target tumor tissue while sparing nearby healthy tissue as much as possible. The affiliation with ProCure NJ will give our adult and pediatric patients direct access to every type of radiation therapy now available for people with cancer,” said Robert C. Garrett, FACHE, CEO, Hackensack Meridian Health.
Proton therapy is effective for treating certain types of cancers as well as some non-cancerous tumors. Each patient’s doctors can help them determine the most appropriate treatment plan. Proton therapy may be an option for patients with these types of cancers:
- Prostate cancer
- Brain tumors
- Certain cancers in children
- Head and neck tumors
- Skull- based tumors
- Tumors near the spine
- Lung tumors
- Esophageal cancers
- Breast cancers
- Testicular cancers
“Being able to offer the most technologically advanced method to deliver radiation treatment will allow our radiation oncologists to customize the best treatment options for our patients at John Theurer Cancer Center,” said Andre Goy, M.D., M.S., chairman and executive director, John Theurer Cancer Center. “Radiation therapy is undergoing a sort of renaissance with these novel radiation modalities. Our cancer care team has exceptional expertise and extraordinary tools to help patients make the best decisions for their care.”
Proton therapy can be especially beneficial for children, who can experience more serious short- and long-term side effects from x-ray radiation than adults. Since their bodies are still growing, children are more sensitive to healthy tissue damage caused by x-rays. Clinical studies suggest that proton therapy reduces the risk of growth and developmental problems, as well as secondary tumors. Children receiving cancer treatment at the Children’s Cancer Institute at Hackensack University Medical Center’s Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital also have access to proton therapy at ProCure NJ.
Because of its unique technology, proton therapy is typically offered at freestanding centers like ProCure NJ, rather than being incorporated into individual hospitals. “We’re very fortunate that our patients have access to proton therapy right here in New Jersey, only about an hour from Hackensack,” noted Thomas L. Bauer, M.D., FACS, Clinical Medical Director, Oncology, Hackensack Meridian Health. “This is important when someone is battling cancer, the treatment for which can be exhausting. Receiving care close to home can offer patients comfort and convenience.”
ProCure NJ was the first to bring proton therapy to the tri-state region and offers Pencil Beam Scanning (“PBS”) — the most advanced form of proton therapy — which utilizes an ultra-narrow proton beam that deposits a radiation dose more precisely within a tumor. PBS allows physicians to precisely “paint” the tumor with radiation, minimizing radiation exposure to healthy tissue and reducing the risk of side effects.