Purpose of Technology: Proton beam therapy (PBT) is a type of external radiation treatment in which positively charged subatomic particles (protons) are precisely targeted to a specific tissue mass using a sophisticated stereotaxic planning and delivery system. In comparison with conventional photon or electron irradiation, proton beam radiation may deliver a higher dose to the target tissue, while minimizing exposure to surrounding healthy tissue.

Rationale: The physical properties of proton beams can be used to improve the targeting of radiation therapy relative to conventional photon or electron beam radiation therapy, potentially reducing the undesirable adverse events that can occur during and after radiation therapy for lung cancer, particularly, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Controversy: Highly sophisticated methods have been developed for targeting conventional radiation therapy, including dose fractionation, modulation of radiation intensity, and delivery of radiation with devices that sweep in multiple arcs around the patient to generate beams that intersect at the tumor. As a result, the type and severity of complications of conventional lung radiation therapy are usually similar to those that occur during and after PBT.

Relevant Questions:

  • Compared with other treatment options, does PBT improve local control of the target lesion and/or increase survival for patients with NSCLC?
  • Does PBT cause fewer complications than other types of radiation therapy?
  • Have definitive patient selection criteria for PBT for NSCLC been established?

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