Although often considered a rare cancer, over 13,000 Americans will be diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma this year – one of two primary forms of the disease along with bone sarcoma. Of these, nearly 40% are expected to be fatal.
In recognition of Sarcoma Awareness Month in July, we at the New York Proton Center want to highlight how proton therapy can be beneficial to sarcoma patients and some of the industry-leading work we do here at NYPC, treating high volumes of both adult and pediatric sarcomas.
Proton therapy can be an effective treatment for both soft tissue and bone sarcomas. It can be a primary treatment or used in addition to surgery and/or chemotherapy. However, large tumors, tumors deep in the body or near joints, and retroperitoneal tumors (located in the area outside or behind the tissue that lines the abdominal wall) benefit the most from protons. For retroperitoneal tumors, proton therapy can better protect the bowels, kidneys, liver and other nearby critical structures compared to traditional photon radiation. For other sarcomas such as those located in the extremities, proton therapy has the potential to better preserve quality of life and functional outcomes following treatment.
In addition to its precision and reduced side effects, proton therapy may have a biological benefit for sarcoma treatment because proton particles are heavier than photon particles and, therefore, can be more effective at killing tumors. Sarcomas, and especially bone sarcomas, are often resistant to traditional radiation. Proton therapy, therefore, can lead to the most effective tumor killing for many of these radioresistant cases.
Patients experiencing a recurrence of soft tissue or bone sarcoma following photon radiation may be able to participate in a reirradiation study now underway at NYPC. This study is evaluating the extent to which proton therapy can be a better way to treat recurrent tumors in patients who have previously received radiation therapy to the same area.
Prior to making treatment decisions, we highly encourage patients and caregivers to consult with their physician and decide if proton therapy is a viable treatment option. We are collaborating with research centers around the world to showcase the benefits of proton therapy and make it more readily accessible to patients who could benefit from this advanced technology.