For about a century, radiation therapy has been a mainstay of cancer treatment. Standard radiation systems use photons, or X-rays, to kill cancer cells. Proton therapy uses particles that can be targeted at the tumor more precisely. Studies have shown that proton therapy is safe and effective. Less clear is which patients with which types of cancer should receive it instead of standard radiation.
Clinical trials that compare proton and photon therapies are now underway, but enrolling patients hasn’t been easy. And in the years that it takes for the answers to come in, thousands of cancer patients will find themselves having to consider whether the benefit is worth the higher price tag.
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