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Pencil beam scanning: The proton therapy innovation of the future

March 06, 2017
Rad Oncology Proton Therapy
From the March 2017 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

What’s next for pencil beam scanning?
Pencil beam scanning is still a relatively new technology. The center I treat at is coming up on three years of having PBS available for our patients. Right now, only some of the proton therapy centers across the country have PBS. Cancer treatment facilities, however, are continuously looking for new technologies to bring to their patients, so adopting PBS-optimized systems is an initiative that I imagine most proton centers are eager to have. I am certain we will see more of an embrace of PBS in the coming years. Other changes on the horizon include:

• Updates and improvements to the treatment planning software used to calculate PBS. One specific change will be new features for dose calculation — helping improve the accuracy of proton delivery to patients.

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• The possibility of combining PBS with apertures to help sharpen the edge of the pencil beam scan.

• Clinical research more closely examining PBS to assess the depth of benefits PBS can offer cancer patients. Right now, there is a lot of focus on assessing the efficacy of proton therapy in the research setting, but learning more about PBS specifically will enable us to treat a greater variety of tumor types with this tool.

• Increased use of intensity modulated proton therapy (IMPT), which requires PBS in order to operate. IMPT is a technique where, instead of using just a few beams to target a tumor, we’re integrating the radiation dose from multiple beams and coordinating the dose based on the combination of those multiple beams.

Pencil beam scanning is one of the most highly developed tools available to radiation oncologists today. Anytime you can treat cancer through a minimally invasive technology such as proton therapy, it’s a step in the right direction. It is our mission as oncologists to improve the lives of our cancer patients by focusing on curing the cancer and preserving our patients’ quality of life. Proton therapy and PBS enable us to bring this very important value to our patients, and we anticipate further adoption and continued innovation in the coming years.

About the author: Henry K. Tsai is a radiation oncologist at ProCure Proton Therapy Center in Somerset, N.J. Dr. Tsai graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard College before receiving his medical degree from Harvard Medical School in Boston, after which he went on to complete his residency at the Harvard Radiation Oncology Program where he was named chief resident. Dr. Tsai was trained at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he gained extensive proton therapy experience and knowledge.

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