RAHsearch: how proton therapy can improve cancer survival

Proton therapy is a cutting-edge cancer treatment and the first treatment centre in the Southern Hemisphere is currently under construction in the Adelaide Biomedical Precinct.

Completion of the Australian Bragg Centre for Proton Therapy and Research is three years away.

In the meantime Royal Adelaide Hospital radiation oncologist Associate Professor Hien Le and his team are researching ways of determining which patients will benefit the most from this technology.

For about 50 per cent of patients with cancer, radiation is an important part of their treatment plan.

Protons therapy, a type of radiation, has the ability to deliver targeted radiation and minimise the amount of radiation exposure to healthy tissues, while at the same time reducing the side-effects.

“For some patients conventional radiotherapy isn’t possible because of the organs nearby,” A/Prof Le says.

“Because proton therapy is more precise, it has a greater ability to deliver the amount of radiotherapy that’s needed.

“There are some patients we can say there’s an advantage in proton therapy including paediatric patients and patients with brain tumours. In other cancers there needs to be more research.”

Already the team have developed a model to assess paediatric patients that would benefit from proton therapy and make recommendations for them to travel overseas for proton therapy treatment.

“Through that work we’ve successfully had about 20 patients go overseas for treatment to places like the US and Europe, and we’ve seen patients return from their treatment with exceptional outcomes.”

The team at the Royal Adelaide Hospital has the ability to deliver world-class treatment plans, and is focused on ensuring the research capabilities are in place to realise the full potential of the future proton therapy centre.

“Our goal over the next three years is to make sure we have sufficient research infrastructure in place. There’s a lot of work to be done, but we have the necessary ingredients to achieve that.”

A/Prof Le presented the latest on his research at RAHsearch, during CALHN Research Week. You can view the session on the Central Adelaide LHN Facebook page. 

RAHsearch is free and proudly sponsored by the RAH Research Fund and The Hospital Research Foundation.