Faster Proton Therapy: First-in-Human Trial


CINCINNATI, Ohio (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Researchers at the Cincinnati Children’s/UC Medical Center Proton Therapy Center are conducting a first-in-human trial of a radiation treatment that they say holds promise in treating tough to kill tumors. The researchers are delivering the radiation with proton therapy – a procedure that uses a large, specialized  machine called a cyclotron.

Kelly Murphy was just 11 when he started to have pounding headaches out of the blue.

“I had almost complete lack of vision,” Kelly painfully remembers.

Kelly’s doctors diagnosed him with a brain tumor. The best treatment at the time was highly focused proton therapy delivered by a specialized machine. He and his family relocated to be closer to treatment. Kelly wore a specialized mask to keep his head in place during those treatments.

Medical Director at Cincinnati Children’s/UC Medical Center Proton Therapy Center, John Breneman, MD says “It differs from the conventional type of radiation therapy in that we can steer it differently.”

(Read Full Interview)

Now for the first time, researchers are studying FLASH proton therapy in humans. FLASH delivers proton radiation up to one thousand times faster than what is used clinically today.

“So, a treatment that might typically take a minute would be delivered in a half a second. That can even further spare some of the normal tissue from the effects of radiation,” Dr. Breneman explains.

Because FLASH proton therapy is being tested in a clinical trial, the current participants must be adults, but researchers are hoping the findings of this trial will allow them to expand.

“One research question is, will FLASH be able to help us cure kids with D.I.P.G. or other tumors that we can’t cure right now?,” said the Director of Division of Oncology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, John Perentesis, MD.

After having traditional proton therapy and chemo, Kelly Murphy was able to ring the chimes, signaling the end of treatment, and now 18, he’s cancer-free.

Preclinical trials in animals suggested that the FLASH proton therapy could safely deliver treatment with fewer side effects, but prior to the University of Cincinnati trial, it had never been tested in humans. The trial focused on patients with bone cancer in their limbs. Researchers say the next human trial is enrolling adult patients with bone cancers that are closer to the lungs and hearts.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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University of Cincinnati press release




REPORT:       MB #5192

BACKGROUND: Proton therapy is a type of radiation therapy — a treatment that uses high-powered energy to treat cancer and some noncancerous tumors. Radiation therapy using X-rays has long been used to treat these conditions. Proton therapy is a newer type of radiation therapy that uses energy from positively charged particles (protons). Proton therapy has shown promise in treating several kinds of cancer. Studies have suggested that proton therapy may cause fewer side effects than traditional radiation, since doctors can better control where the proton beams deliver their energy. But few studies have compared proton radiation and X-ray radiation, so it’s not clear whether proton therapy is more effective at prolonging lives. Over 170,000 patients have been treated with proton therapy worldwide with over 75,000 of those in the United States.


DIAGNOSING: Proton therapy is used as a treatment for cancer and some noncancerous tumors. Proton therapy may be used as the only treatment for your condition. Or it may be used in conjunction with other treatments, such as surgery and chemotherapy. Proton therapy may also be used if the cancer remains or comes back after traditional X-ray radiation. Proton therapy is sometimes used to treat brain tumors, breast cancer, cancer in treatment, eye melanoma, liver cancer, lymphoma, prostate cancer, etc.


NEW TECHNOLOGY: The Cincinnati Children’s / UC Health Proton Therapy Center has begun the world’s first clinical trial of FLASH radiation therapy for cancer. FLASH uses radiation delivered at ultra-high speeds up to 1,000 times faster than what is used clinically today. Multiple preclinical research studies at the Proton Therapy Center at Cincinnati Children’s and other centers around the world have investigated this novel technology and its effect on malignant and healthy tissues in animals for several years. “Our preclinical FLASH research indicates there’s a potential for reducing toxicity associated with conventional radiation therapy techniques when treating at ultra-high dose rates,” says John C. Breneman, MD, medical director of the Proton Therapy Center and principal investigator of FAST-Bone.



Cincinnati Children’s Hospital

(513) 636-2866


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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for John Breneman, MD and John Perentesis, MD

Read the entire Q&A