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Pencil-beam scanning proton therapy could spare memory and cognitive function in children

Research presented recently at a conference in Milan showed that a particular type of radiation therapy could help spare children’s memory and thinking when they undergo treatment for brain tumours

Research presented recently at a conference in Milan showed that a particular type of radiation therapy could help spare children’s memory and thinking when they undergo treatment for brain tumours

Brain tumours are the second most common type of tumour in children. In recent decades, survival rates have increased and now approximately 75% of children diagnosed with a brain tumour will be alive five years later.

Current standard of treatment for brain tumours involves surgery, chemotherapy, as well as radiotherapy. However, children undergoing radiation therapy are at risk for cognitive impairment, as most tumours are located next to parts of the brain that are associated with memory and thinking.

Reducing radiation exposure to these parts of the brain will help reduce these effects and improve quality of survival.

Proton beam therapy is a type of radiation therapy that targets cancer with proton particles, the ‘heart’ or ‘centre’ of atoms.

Pencil-beam scanning (PBS) proton therapy is the most precise form of proton beam therapy. Using guided scanners, PBS delivers treatment via a proton beam that is millimetres wide.

The depth and position of the beam can be controlled which allows for precision when targeting the tumour.

Research presented at the European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology (ESTRO) 38 meeting taking place in Milan, Italy showed that PBS proton therapy, relative to other types of radiotherapy, delivers the lowest dose of radiation to surrounding parts of the brain.

The study consisted of 10 children who were treated with three different types of radiotherapy, including PBS proton therapy.

The research team compared the three treatments and found that PBS proton therapy successfully treated the tumour but spared the parts of the brain that were important to cognitive function.

The aim of radiotherapy is to effectively treat cancer while causing as little harm as possible to the rest of the body.

PBS proton beam allows for effective treatment while also reducing the long-term side effects and improving a person’s quality of survival.

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