Proton Therapy Carries Precise, Potent Punch Against Cancers for Patients at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia


— Highly Focused Energy Beam Adds Much-Needed Weapon in Treating Brain Tumors, with Gentler Side Effects —

PHILADELPHIA, May 27 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia announces the availability of proton therapy, a precise form of cancer radiation that offers potentially life-changing benefits to children with brain tumors and other solid tumors. The Hospital's Cancer Center has recently begun using proton treatment at the new Roberts Proton Therapy Center, a cutting-edge radiation oncology facility located across the street from Children's Hospital in Penn Medicine's Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine.


With a child diagnosed with a brain tumor, parents often face a cruel dilemma. Conventional radiation treatment that offers survival often risks severe side effects, including damage to surrounding healthy tissue, as well as impairments to hearing, vision, growth and cognition. The after-effects may impede a child's daily life and may carry the prospect of lifelong disability and dependence. In fact, the side effects are potentially devastating enough that conventional radiation therapy is not given to children under age two.

The Roberts Proton Therapy Center is the only proton therapy facility in the country conceived with pediatric patients in mind from the earliest planning stages. Children who receive proton therapy in this $140 million state-of-the-art facility benefit from a long-standing collaboration between Children's Hospital and radiation oncologists at Penn Medicine. Young patients experience family-focused  pediatric care from a medical team who understands the unique needs of children with cancer, while providing emotional support for the entire family. Every detail has been considered — from scheduling morning treatments for children who cannot eat prior to anesthesia, to offering a dedicated child-oriented waiting room and a dedicated pediatric anesthesia room.

"When the Roberts Proton Therapy Center's pediatric program is fully operational, the Cancer Center at Children's Hospital will be able to treat more children with proton therapy than all other American proton centers combined, thereby reducing the negative impact of cancer therapy for children from the Philadelphia region and around the country," said John M. Maris, MD, chief of Oncology and director of the Cancer Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

With its extensive program of comprehensive services, the Cancer Center is one of the largest pediatric cancer programs in the United States. All cancer care is available at one location, including doctor's visits, lab work and a full range of therapies. In its most recent listings, U.S. News & World Report ranked Children's Hospital first in cancer care among America's children's hospitals.

In addition to its application for brain tumors, proton therapy may also be appropriate for cancers of the head and neck, and tumors located near the spinal cord, heart and lungs - sites perilously close to vital organs.

The advent of proton therapy provides a dramatic reduction in side effects when compared to conventional radiation. Because protons can be more precisely aimed and concentrated on a tumor, much less energy impacts normal tissue in front of and behind the cancerous mass. At the same time, doctors may increase the radiation dose focused on the tumor for optimum benefits.

Protons are positively charged particles, found in the nucleus of every atom, but made available in this therapy by stripping away electrons from hydrogen atoms. Although commonly manipulated by physicists in high-energy particle accelerators in research settings since the mid-20th century, protons are only gradually becoming part of medical practice. There are currently only seven proton therapy centers in the United States.

About The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia: The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia was founded in 1855 as the nation's first pediatric hospital. Through its long-standing commitment to providing exceptional patient care, training new generations of pediatric healthcare professionals and pioneering major research initiatives, Children's Hospital has fostered many discoveries that have benefited children worldwide. Its pediatric research program is among the largest in the country, ranking second in National Institutes of Health funding. In addition, its unique family-centered care and public service programs have brought the 460-bed hospital recognition as a leading advocate for children and adolescents. For more information, visit

Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $3.6 billion enterprise.

Penn's School of Medicine is currently ranked #2 in U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools, and is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $367.2 million awarded in the 2008 fiscal year.

Fact Sheet

Proton Therapy at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Cancer Center

-- Proton therapy is a highly advanced form of radiation therapy, using high-energy subatomic particles to destroy the DNA in cancerous tumors and prevent cancer cells from multiplying. Protons are the positively-charged particles inside the nucleus of all atoms.
-- The Cancer Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia is a world leader in treating pediatric cancers and developing innovative cancer treatments. The Cancer Center's affiliation with Penn Medicine makes proton therapy available to patients at Children's Hospital, as part of the Hospital's comprehensive oncology services.
-- Penn Medicine's Roberts Proton Therapy Center, which began treating adult patients in 2010, is the world's largest proton therapy center associated with an academic medical center. Of the seven proton therapy centers open in the U.S., it is the only one to incorporate features for pediatric patients from the earliest planning stages.
-- The Roberts Proton Therapy Center is located across 34th Street from the main building of Children's Hospital, in Penn Medicine's Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine.
-- Children who receive proton therapy at the Center have the use of a dedicated child-friendly waiting room and a dedicated room for pediatric anesthesia. Designated time is reserved for treating child patients, and as with all oncology patients at Children's Hospital, a multidisciplinary pediatric team focuses on the child's unique needs and on emotional support for the whole family.
-- The extremely precise particle beam used in proton therapy concentrates energy directly at the tumor site, minimizing injury to surrounding healthy tissues and thereby greatly reducing the risk of acute and long-term side effects. This precise targeting makes proton therapy particularly appropriate for treating cancers near vital organs: brain tumors, cancers of the head and neck, and tumors located near the spinal cord, heart or lungs.
-- Some statistics: the Proton Therapy Center occupies 75,000 square feet. The cyclotron, which accelerates protons to 100,000 miles per second (more than half the speed of light), weighs 220 tons - about as much as a 747 jet. Powerful magnets guide the high-speed, high-energy protons into a beamline, an airless tube about as long as a football field. From the beamline, protons are channeled into five treatment rooms, four of which contain a 90-ton steel gantry that moves around the patient to aim the beam at the correct angle.

Media Contact: Rachel Salis-Silverman, 267-426-6063, 

SOURCE The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia