What Is Proton Beam Therapy?

Proton beam therapy (or proton therapy in short,) is a form of radiation therapy that utilises protons, positively charged particles, to precisely target and destroy cancer cells. Unlike traditional radiation therapy, which uses X-rays or photons, proton beam therapy allows for more accurate targeting of tumours while minimising damage to surrounding healthy tissues. This precision makes it particularly effective for treating certain types of cancers.

 

Varian ProBeam

Proton Beam Therapy In Singapore

Proton Beam Therapy has been available in Singapore since 2023.

Proton Beam Therapy at Biopolis
Proton Therapy is Available in Singapore

How Does Proton Beam Therapy Work?

During proton beam therapy, a machine that is outside of the patient’s body delivers radiation to the targeted cancer cells through the skin. It works by accelerating protons to high speeds and directing them into the targeted tumour area. The energy from these protons is released within the tumour, delivering a controlled dose of radiation. The unique property of protons allows for a more focused delivery of radiation, reducing the risk of damage to nearby healthy tissues and organs.

What Does Proton Beam Therapy Treat?

Proton beam therapy may be used to treat cancers such as:

An estimated 60% of cancer patients require radiation therapy. Of these, it is estimated that about 20% may benefit from proton beam treatment. These are patients who have cancers that have not metastasized, or are near important organs, and child cancer patients.

What Are The Advantages Of Proton Beam Therapy For Cancer Treatment?

Proton beam therapy treatment has certain key advantages compared to conventional radiotherapy. Some of the advantages are:

1. Precision Targeting

Proton beam therapy allows for highly precise targeting of tumours, minimising damage to surrounding healthy tissues and organs. This precision is crucial, especially for treating tumours located near critical structures.

  • Less radiation dose is delivered to nearby healthy cells.
  • There is no entry and exit radiation dose. The radiation is only released only at the targeted depth in the body.
  • As a result of there being less radiation delivered to surrounding tissues, delivery of higher dosage of radiation to targeted areas is possible.

2. Reduced Side Effects

The focused nature of proton beam therapy results in fewer side effects compared to traditional radiation therapy. Patients often experience less damage to surrounding tissues, leading to a better quality of life during and after treatment.

3. Enhanced Treatment For Paediatric Cancers

Children suffering from cancer are in particular at high risk from complications from conventional radiation treatment, as they have a smaller body size and their bodies are still in the development stages. Possible serious side effects from conventional radiation treatment that impact lifetime quality of life, include stunted growth, infertility, and impaired cognitive abilities (depends on where the cancer is located).

Proton beam therapy is particularly beneficial for treating paediatric cancers, as it reduces the risk of long-term side effects and damage to developing tissues and organs.

4. Improved Quality Of Life

With fewer side effects and a lower risk of complications, patients undergoing proton beam therapy often experience an improved overall quality of life during and after treatment.

5. Post-Treatment Cancer Recurrence Is Less Likely

There are studies that suggest that traditionally radioresistant tumours like chordomas and sarcomas have a higher cure rate than traditional x-ray treatments.

How Much Does Proton Beam Therapy In Singapore Costs?

Proton beam therapy cost about 2-3x more than for conventional radiotherapy in Singapore.

While proton beam therapy has substantial advantages, cost may be a concern for many people. Luckily, it can be covered under Medishield (our national health insurance), medisave (our compulsory health savings) and integrated plans.