Newswise — Baltimore, Md., August 4, 2014 — A team of leading experts in radiation oncology from the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM) have published an opinion piece in the Aug. 1 issue of the medical publication The Cancer Letter, stating that several types of cancer patients requiring radiation therapy would benefit from specialized proton beam therapy as a treatment method over the more commonly used radiation methods. The team of professors from UM SOM and the Maryland Proton Treatment Center (MPTC), comprised of Minesh P. Mehta, MBChB., FASTRO, Katja M Langen, PhD, and William F. Regine, MD, are looking to debunk the notion that proton therapy is predominantly needed and used for the treatment of prostate cancer. The experts argue in their manuscript that proton treatment is wholly underutilized and holds a less harmful potential impact than traditional radiation approaches since it typically exposes normal tissues to lower overall levels of radiation.

The recently published article comes as a precursor to the anticipated 2015 opening of the Maryland Proton Treatment Center. This summer, a 90-ton cyclotron was lifted by crane into the Proton Center building. A special unveiling event for the Center is scheduled for later this calendar year.

“Thanks to our unique partnership with the Maryland Proton Treatment Center, we are able to stay at the forefront of cutting-edge therapies, ensuring patients suffering from cancers of all kinds have the most progressive and least invasive treatments,” said UM SOM Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, Vice President of Medical Affairs at the University of Maryland.

The impetus for the recently published editorial was initially to respond to a statistic that was noted in a previous article in The Cancer Letter, and which stated that 85 percent of patients treated with proton therapies had a diagnosis of prostate cancer. This statistic may have once held true, but now accounts for less than 50 percent of the treatment’s uses, according to the UM SOM authors. The UM SOM team of experts took the opportunity to address several misperceptions about proton therapies in the new opinion-piece.

The team recapped several key aversions to proton therapy and noted that these perspectives have and will continue to change in the next decade. Specifically, the perspectives on availability, cost, and supporting data of proton therapy are changing as the technology becomes more affordable and shrinks in relative size of foot-print. Practitioners will also need to be educated on the applicability of this cutting-edge treatment to change misconceptions and provide current data, according to the authors.

“The next generation of proton beam therapy will increasingly be viewed as the preferred new radiation treatment for many types of cancers not previously treated with proton therapy and will give even more hope to many individuals living with cancer,” said Dr. Regine. “It takes specialized teams like ours to present the facts about proton beam therapy to help educate practitioners to better understand what a unique resource we will now have at our fingertips.

Adds Dr. Mehta: “This really is quite possibly the most dynamic treatment approach holding radiation oncologists to the concept of ‘primum non nocere,’ or ‘first, do no harm.’”

About the University of Maryland School of MedicineChartered in 1807, the University of Maryland School of Medicine is the first public medical school in the United States and continues today as an innovative leader in accelerating innovation and discovery in medicine. The School of Medicine is the founding school of the University of Maryland and is an integral part of the 11-campus University System of Maryland. Located on the University of Maryland’s Baltimore campus, the School of Medicine works closely with the University of Maryland Medical Center to provide a research-intensive, academic and clinically based education. With 43 academic departments, centers and institutes and a faculty of more than 3,000 physicians and research scientists plus more than $400 million in extramural funding, the School is regarded as one of the leading biomedical research institutions in the U.S. with top-tier faculty and programs in cancer, brain science, surgery and transplantation, trauma and emergency medicine, vaccine development and human genomics, among other centers of excellence. The School is not only concerned with the health of the citizens of Maryland and the nation, but also has a global vision, with research and treatment facilities in more than 30 countries around the world.