Proton therapy holds an advantage in treating lung cancer is its ability to deliver an adequate dose of radiation to a cancerous tumor while sparing nearby normal tissues, according to a team of researchers at The University of Texas MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center. Proton treatment may also reduce some of the side effects of traditional radiation and help patients maintain good quality of life, according to the team.

Proton therapy is a form of external beam radiation using particles (protons) instead of photons (X-rays) to treat tumors. Both forms of radiation destroy cancer cells by causing their DNA to malfunction.

“We’re just beginning to see the potential benefits of proton therapy and as we move forward it looks more and more like an excellent treatment modality,” said Anne S Tsao, MD, associate professor in Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology. “As we learn more and gather evidence of these benefits, proton therapy will likely be extended to a broader patient population.”

MD Anderson has one of the largest proton therapy centers in the world, and the treatment is currently only available at 11 centers in North America, according to the hospital, which noted that 13 centers are in development.