Researchers at the University of Cincinnati are conducting a first-in-human trial of a radiation treatment that they say holds promise in treating tough-to-kill tumors. The researchers deliver the radiation with proton therapy, a procedure that uses a large, specialized machine called a gantry.
Kelly Murphy was just 11 years old when he started to have pounding headaches out of the blue.
“I had almost complete lack of vision, Murphy said.
His doctors diagnosed him with a brain tumor. The best treatment at the time was highly focused proton therapy delivered by a specialized machine.
“We had actually moved here to get to the proton therapy,” Murphy said.
Murphy wore a specialized mask to keep his head in place during those treatments.
“It differs from the conventional type of radiation therapy in that we can steer it differently,” said Dr. John Breneman, medical director of proton therapy at University of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
For the first time, researchers are studying flash proton therapy in humans. Flash delivers proton radiation up to 1,000 times faster than currently used clinically.
“So, a treatment that might typically take a minute would be delivered in a half a second,” Murphy said. “That can even further spare some of the normal tissue from the effects of radiation.”
Because flash proton therapy is being tested in a clinical trial, the current participants must be adults. Still, researchers hope this trial’s findings will allow them to expand.
“One research question is, will flash be able to help us cure kids with DIPG or other tumors that we can’t cure right now?” Breneman said.
After having traditional proton therapy and chemo, Kelly Murphy could ring the bell signaling the end of his treatment. At 18 years old.. he’s cancer-free.
“You have to have confidence that you’ll make it through,” Murphy said.
Preclinical trials in animals suggested that flash proton therapy could safely deliver treatment with fewer side effects. However, before 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 closer to the lungs and heart.