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Penn Medicine study: Proton therapy cuts side effects for pediatric head and neck cancer patients
Date:9/24/2013

(20 percent) had tumors that seemed to be stable. One patient died of their cancer. The authors note that these outcomes are generally equivalent to those that would be expected with more traditional x-ray therapy. More significant, however, were the greatly reduced side effects observed in the study, compared to the prevalence seen among head and neck cancer patients undergoing x-ray treatment. "The side effects profile was really very mild, with basically no high-grade toxicity," says Hill-Kayser, who conducted the study along with colleagues from both Penn Medicine and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

The most common side effects were fatigue and dermatitis. The researchers noted that while skin reactions are often seen during radiation treatment, this study seemed to indicate a somewhat greater reaction than expected when proton treatment was followed by certain chemotherapies, including actinomycin-d and doxorubicin, which can interact with radiation and cause radiation sensitivity. That finding helped the research team refine their approach to minimize that side effect. "If we started those drugs right away after proton therapy, it seemed the dermatitis was worse," Hill-Kayser said. "So we learned that after proton therapy, we wanted to hold those drugs and not give them for a month to six weeks, so the patient had time to recover from the skin toxicity before it got worse."

Another common side effect of radiation therapy -- especially among head and neck cancer patients -- can be weight loss and nutritional problems, but those were also only found to be a mild concern for the patients in the current study. "It's common to lose some weight during radiation treatment because the mouth and throat get inflamed, but we found that very few patients in our study lost more than 10 percent of their body weight during the course of treatment. We found that we could minimize that weight loss by using a gastrostomy tube to give tube feedings, b
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Contact: Holly Auer
holly.auer@uphs.upenn.edu
215-200-2313
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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